Ian, Guy and Penny talk about SOAR's work in north Sheffield

Ian My name’s Ian Drayton. I’m the partnership manager at SOAR.

Guy My name’s Guy Weston. I’m a health manager at SOAR.

Penny And my name’s Penny Stanley. I work with the training team at SOAR.

What does SOAR do?

Ian Our strapline is ‘Supporting people to make positive changes’. So it’s work with individuals that want to move forward in their lives, whether that’s about improving their health, improving the level of skills they’ve got. There’s the health services that Guy’s team provides.

Guy It’s very much based around the social model of health – trying to address the structural elements that prevent people from making healthy lifestyles. Low level benefits and debt advice. They also help people with housing, food, nutrition, weight management, signposting other organisations.

Penny We deliver community non-accredited and accredited training, so that looks at first aid, confidence building, personal development, healthy me and you, healthy lifestyles.

Why do you think there’s a need for the services SOAR provides?

Ian The people in the north of Sheffield have historically been more poor than the rest of the city, and there’s been a history of, I suppose, poor attainment at school, and all that kind of stuff, which has its knock on effect to the aspirations for the young people coming through, about where they want to work. Levels of unemployment are high, levels of worklessness are high, educational attainment is low, and consequently that’s why the [Sheffield Fairness] Commission highlighted, at this end of the 83 bus route, the health inequalities are significantly worse here than they are at the other end of the 83 route.

How important is the non-clinical, locally focussed setting of SOAR to your clients?

Guy It’s about trust. It’s trying to make our services accessible, so people aren’t perturbed by having to go to surgeries. If somebody is low mood, rather than jump into, ‘we’ll refer you to a GP for a medical prescription’, or we’ll do this, that and the other, what is causing you that anxiety? Is it your family make up, is it that you haven’t got confidence in services, or are you in arrears, are you in debt? Because we have wrap around services that all integrate and work together, we retain that individual with SOAR.

What are the most common barriers to employment?

Ian Quite often it’s a lack of confidence. A lot of people who become unemployed have not been unemployed before. A lot of jobs can only be accessed on the web, people need CVs, so there’s all that kind of thing. It’s a bit of a minefield for people.

Penny Aspirations, too high or too low, and being realistic about where they are. A lot of people I’ve come across that are wanting jobs, it’s probably a far field. So small steps. Improving their health, improving their confidence, reducing isolation, and then putting those steps in place.

What other issues to do come across often?

Penny I find, round here, there’s a lot of stigma with mental health. A lot of people are high buying, so are going to different agencies and trying to keep up with the Joneses. That’s what I find a lot around here. I live in this area as well. Everybody’s just trying to keep up with everybody. Debt masses up then – where they can’t afford this and they can’t afford that, knocks your confidence when you end up shutting your doors.

Guy We’ve got a social cafe, which is a three-year contract by the Council, for people with mild to moderate mental health [issues]. We run it with Sheffield Mind, and a lot of people come through that over a period of three months, and we signpost them to a job club, so I think mental health is the biggest barrier. That could be depression, but social isolation – and it’s not elderly, it’s young people as well.

How do you think people in this area would react to the findings of the Fairness Commission?

Ian If you sat down and talked to them about it, there would be no surprises there, because it is a bit of a no brainer, if you think about it. Isn’t the Hallam constituency the richest constituency in the whole of the country, outside of London? That in itself tells a story about Sheffield.

Guy People like it here. Yes, they know that... you could say they are at a disadvantage, but I think there are a lot of people that choose to live here, don’t they? Black and white – yeah, there is a big difference in north and south, you can’t get away from that, but people do generally like living up in the north.

Ian One thing that perennially disappoints me is about how Parsons Cross and Burngreave in the north of the city have got this really bad image and this really bad reputation. I live in Burngreave and I just don’t think it’s merited. The same applies to elsewhere in the city, for example for Manor and for Wybourn. They’ve got similarly poor reputations, but those communities are strong and they’re quite resilient.

What is fairness?

Ian People should always have that ability to go back to learning, to go back to where they were, to move forward, rather than if you haven’t got any qualifications by 21, you write off the rest of your life, because that’s just not the case. You need to give second chances to people.

Guy I agree with Ian. People should have services that they can access, regardless of where they live, and if they aren’t confident or they don’t know about them, then it’s up to people like us, like SOAR, to support that individual to access, to give them that confidence.

Penny I think it’s about that individual, so for me it’s about treating people differently, having choices and having opportunities. That to me is fairness. No matter if you’re just born into this community or you’re 80 odd – it’s just to have those choices and those opportunities.

Isn’t the Hallam constituency the richest constituency in the whole of the country, outside of London? That in itself tells a story about Sheffield.

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