Charnwood Health Champions
 
The Charnwood Health Champions is a groundbreaking project.  It supports current and ex-offenders to become volunteer health promoters and mentors to engage with offenders and other vulnerable individuals, enabling them to tackle health and wellbeing issues.

The project initially received £20,000 Innovation funding for one year from the Leicestershire County Council, which enabled 16 individuals to qualify as accredited health champions. The required qualification is the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Level 2 Award.
 
 
Ultimate goals
The health champions are seen as credible role models to their clients. Their ability to empathise and their own success in overcoming adversity puts them in an ideal position to motivate individual participants to make positive changes in their lives.

Its ultimate goals are to achieve a reduction in re-offending and in the cost to both the health economy and the Criminal Justice System.
 
 
A joined-up approach
The project is managed by CRC staff member Tim Aherne who is a qualified health trainer. This means Tim can provide support and additional input when required.

The Charnwood Health Champions quickly established links with existing voluntary organisations and prioritising early interventions and prevention, the project provides an effective joined-up approach to tackling clients’ issues in the community, before the involvement of other agencies becomes necessary.
 
The main partnerships are:

  • Minnie’s Friends –  a drop-in service to help with a drug and alcohol issues and/or depression
  • Project 5000 –  the project is run by volunteers who provide a hot meal to all in need. The project runs every Monday evening from a church hall
  • The Falcon Centre – a youth hostel
  • John Storer House – a fully-accessible community centre, serving Charnwood with activities running throughout the day and evening, including weekends.

 
 
Effective interventions
As testament to its effectiveness, during an eight month period, four health champions supported 677 individuals with a range of health and wellbeing issues, including mental health, homelessness and food poverty.

The health champions were working with ‘Jonathon’ to reduce his smoking and drinking, when he admitted that he was sleeping rough in a park. Within hours the project was able to provide Jonathon with a hot meal, a tent and a sleeping bag. With Jonathon’s agreement, Tim went to see his doctor, who was treating Jonathon for depression, and asked if the doctor would write a letter asking the local housing office to review Jonathon’s accommodation status to high priority.

In the meantime the health champions supported Jonathon’s application for a temporary  place in a hostel. Eventually he moved into a one bedroom flat provided by Charnwood Borough Council.

Jonathon explained: “I met the health champions and health trainer at the time when I was homeless and sleeping rough. First of all they helped get me a tent and sleeping bag through Project 5000, at the same time they also made a referral for me to live at the Falcon Centre which is a hostel. I got my tent and sleeping bag the same day that I told them about where I was sleeping. This was great as the weather had just changed.

“A week later I was accepted into the Falcon Centre and the health champions then helped me to bid for properties with Charnwood Borough Council’s housing options. Just a couple of weeks later I was offered a one bedroom property in Loughborough. I am now living in my own flat, the bills are sorted, my mental health is improving daily and its all down to the support I got from the champions.”

A further sum of £185,000 has been awarded by  the Rehabilitation Social Action Fund, managed by the Cabinet Office, which enables the project is able to continue until April 2015 into Nottingham and Derby.

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