We want to take our award winning services on the road to provide initial one-to-one face-to-face counselling and advice for people living in the rural areas of Derbyshire who struggle to access mainstream services often located in large conurbations and city centre locations.
Transport is a challenge in these areas, with 26 subsidised bus routes having been removed from Derbyshire this year alone, and local clinical commissioning groups further cutting non-emergency patient transport by increasing the assess criteria, more children, young people and adults living in our rural communities will find it harder to access health and preventative services and isolation will only increase.
We want to respond by bringing our services to local communities and groups and go on-the-road to eating disorder recovery.
The rural community are reporting low self-esteem, struggle with coping mechanisms and from our pilot in Buxton we see a clear demand for our service in a converted bus, which we will purchase already converted to provide information and education roadshows and have within it an area to carry out private one-to-one counselling and advice.
The First Steps Bus will link young people and adults aged under 30 with a trained counsellor who will provide a maximum of 6 sessions at or near home locations. They will then be transferred onto our award winning NHS England, Integrated Personal Commissioning endorsed online befriending service which uses online and telephone channels such as e-mail, Skype, telephone and social media (with the necessary security and safeguards are in place) to support people of all ages.
Each trained volunteering befriender provides support for up to an additional 9 months, maintaining direct contract at least twice a week which has proven to enhance a person’s confidence to fully engage, self-care with support from an expert by experience and overcome travel difficulties.
We will enable more people in rural communities to access our services and be able to positively manage their relationship with food and improve self-esteem.
Our project will support at least 250 people in its first 12 months each receiving a range of signposting, support and information.
A total of 30 people under 30 years old will receive six one to one support sessions who we assess as having a mild to moderate eating disorder following an initial assessment carried out in the bus.
7 volunteer befrienders over 25 years old will be recruited, trained and supported to drive the vehicle, and will support local people including eating disorders sufferers, siblings and parents with general sessions and offer signposting information where relevant for comorbid physical and mental health conditions.
However, we know that anonymity and stigma is an issue for students – a vehicle which would include attendance at the University and alternative locations in Buxton and North Derbyshire’s surrounding areas would raise the profile of the support available, enable a wider population to become open in discussions and reduce the stigma associated with Eating Disorders.
Our pilot has also opened opportunities for us to work closely with local schools and we are also currently seeing a growing waiting list of children referred to us by school nurses with a small group of clients now on our counselling and care plan programme. A vehicle will enable us to offer more in-reach to schools across these rural communities.
We consulted with our self-help support groups who told us:-
Service users find it quite a challenge (relying on parents, affected by bad weather, poor bus access) to access healthcare and support services and a mobile venue (vehicle) would be an excellent alternative. They liked the idea of a bus to have one to one appointments in (rating it very likely that they would use it) and it could be used for awareness raising and fundraising at local fetes, open days.