Community Grant encourages best foot forward for fitness

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Wandsworth students are putting their best foot forward to build up fitness and resilience after long months of lockdown.

The students attend Share Community, a charity which supports around 140 people with autism and learning disabilities in Wandsworth and some neighbouring boroughs. A £2,444 NHS Wandsworth Community Grant paid for pedometers so students can measure their daily steps, and the training of five student health champions.

The champions will help their peers to boost walking and overall activity levels through healthy choices such as taking the stairs. They will record how the students are feeling on a day-to-day basis and monitor weight loss and reductions in blood pressure.

“One of the impacts of the long lockdowns was a deterioration in our students’ health and fitness, “said Share’s Rachel Healy.  “Despite virtual exercise classes, people were inevitably less active, which had both physical and mental effects.”

Share supports adults with learning disabilities and autism through a number of training and personal development courses. These include catering, horticulture, basic skills, independent living skills, art, music, and digital skills.

Building physical and mental resilience

Rachel says the grant-funded project is about “recovery of both physical fitness and mental resilience”. She explains “We are aiming to have about 40 people taking part in walks on our local green spaces such as Clapham and Wandsworth Commons. We’ll also be boosting people’s activity levels by working with the charity Disability Sports Coach.’

“Students have reported doing more exercise overall and everyone gets really excited for Thursdays when we run a step competition!”

A health and well-being noticeboard has been set up in Share’s main centre in Wandsworth. This carries positive images and easy to read information on healthy eating tips, cutting down on cholesterol and the importance of cleaning your teeth.  The students are also creating information for the Share newspaper which goes to all students and their families.

Share student Yasmin said: “I really like wearing the pedometer and walking around. I do more walking when I go home.”

Fellow student Gus also gave his pedometer the thumbs up: “It is really great,“ he said.

Community grants support exciting projects

Every year, the Wandsworth NHS Community Grants Programme provides investment for an exciting range of small-scale schemes run by voluntary organisations. Young people with learning disabilities, refugees, people suffering from isolation as parents of disabled children, older people, and people living with Long Covid are just a few of the communities who have benefitted from the scheme in the last year.

Some of the projects generate a longer lasting service provision such as LGBTQ+ coffee mornings for older people. This provides an unmet need within the Wandsworth community.

With a total grant pot of only £30k per year, and a maximum grant of £2,500 per organisation, the scheme is proof that a little money spent wisely can go a long way. Since it was set up 10 years ago, the grant scheme has distributed over 150 grants with around 10 to 15 individual grants a year. Only new, standalone projects are eligible for grants.

“The programme aims to build closer working relationships and mutual understanding between the local NHS and the many small and developing voluntary and community organisations who do so much to support people in Wandsworth,” says Sian Job, the local CCG’s Clinical Lead for Patient and Public Involvement.

Supporting health and well being

“All the grants we give to projects have to relate to key themes which support the health and well being of Wandsworth residents.”

Last year, SEN Parents received a grant to run support and wellbeing sessions post Covid, for families suffering from Long Covid symptoms.

Grants will be available again this year and advertised in the near future.

To date the themes have been :

  • Recovering to thriving post Covid-19
  • Virtual health and wellbeing: reducing digital exclusion. including for people with sensory and/or physical impairments.

Applications are encouraged for creative projects that seek to test / pilot a new idea and will generate the learning needed to create a sustainable project which can be taken forward beyond the life of the grant funding.

“Ultimately, this is a developmental scheme,” said Sian. “It’s about Wandsworth NHS and the voluntary sector getting to know each other. Voluntary organisations play a vital role in building strong communities and this grants programme is a great help way to help them grow and develop to benefit people right across Wandsworth.”