“By having a chink of light at the end of the tunnel it brings hope and focus”
I have worked as a Community Navigator since June 2019 and have been fortunate enough to be part of a very welcoming team who have been extremely generous in sharing their knowledge and guiding me during my first few months in post.
Community Connectors is a social prescribing service where we support clients to improve their health and wellbeing, developing personalised and practical solutions to any issues they have and connecting them to services, groups, and activities in the community.
We are a team of eight Community Navigators offering the service from Seaford to Rye. We are primarily based in GP surgeries and community settings like our Wellbeing Centres across East Sussex.
Our team is extremely resourceful and each Community Navigator has knowledge in a specialist area which enables us to tap into a sound knowledge bank which ultimately strengthens the support we offer to our clients.
I work in the Hastings and Rother area and have enjoyed meeting such diverse and interesting clients with a variety of needs. We support clients aged 16 years and over and can offer up to eight sessions to each client depending on their needs. The mix of age groups and needs means that my skillset is continually being built on as I research suitable groups and services that can benefit all generations in our community.
Our service requires the client to come to the clinics we hold in either in GP surgeries or community venues and their readiness for change is further demonstrated by them either self-referring into the Community Connectors service or asking their GP to do so on their behalf. I feel this readiness is key to change becoming realistic for the client, as they are taking the first step towards an often scary experience of drilling down on areas of their lives which may be uncomfortable to discuss or consider.
As a Community Navigator, I discuss with a client the things they feel are having an impact on their mental health and wellbeing, we will then formulate a plan, ensuring it is comfortably paced so they do not feel overwhelmed but feel that change is sustainable and realistic for them.
We signpost clients to specialist services to promote positive change and we use the coaching and recovery models to encourage engagement in social activities with the aim of improving confidence, self-esteem and feelings of empowerment and the ability to make positive, sustainable changes to their lives.
We hope our support will help bring about fulfilment in their lives, routine, structure and purpose.
Since the pandemic our way of working has obviously had to change as we are unable to hold face-to-face meetings with clients. Instead we have been offering telephone support. Some clients are happy to hold Zoom support sessions with Community Navigators too.
We are still able to make onward referrals to some support agencies and can plan with the client ways they can improve their health and wellbeing during this period of isolation by exploring activities available to them at home, online, or through linking them up with our volunteer buddies who remain active for the service at this time.
Planning for the future is something clients have found to be helpful as it gives them something to focus on which is important as some have felt suffocated by the restrictions currently in place for us as a society. By having a chink of light at the end of the tunnel it brings hope and focus.
My role is a part time post and I would typically travel every day to different locations but since lockdown I have been working from home. I have found I have had to be very boundaried in order to protect my own space and have worked only from our study in order to ensure client issues do not overspill into other areas of my home.
As a team we have been able to connect via Zoom and Google Meet meetings and check in with colleagues throughout the course of the week. This has been very important and it allows us to offload any concerns or stresses whilst just catching up on day-to-day conversations.
Community Connectors is a free service for people with issues impacting on their mental health and where they or their GP have identified that a ‘social prescription’ would be of benefit. Social Prescribing helps clients find practical solutions to everyday issues and supports them to link in with specialist agencies and activities in their local community that can help improve their mental and emotional wellbeing.