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Pilot scheme launched to support those with brain injuries, neurological and neurodiversity issues

Minster Law

Rachael Jobson, Associate at Minster Law and a trustee of Headway Northumberland, talks about the new pilot scheme launched by Headway Northumberland and Brainbox to support those with brain injuries, neurological and neurodiversity issues.

As a trustee of Headway Northumberland, it was already apparent that services for those with brain injuries in the community were limited. As we emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for support amongst brain injury survivors had increased further due to the heightened social isolation, anxieties, stress, and depression, the delays in treatment and the increased pressure on the NHS.

In response to this further decline in services, Headway Northumberland created a joint pilot scheme with Brainbox, another charity supporting brain injury survivors who provide support from birth. The pilot scheme is called Clearer Futures and intends to provide support to those in the Northumberland area from birth with no upper age limit with brain injuries and neurological and neurodiversity issues.

The pilot is supported by the manager of the Northumberland Head Injury Service, Neil Brownlee, and it is intended to work with the new Integrated Care System.

The plan for the service is to focus on the positive mental health and well-being of the beneficiaries and their families as well as their physical well-being. The service will benefit from a family support service, and counselling and listening service already in place through Brainbox, and a social activity programme in place through both Headway Northumberland and Brainbox. It is intended the new service will also develop opportunities for education and higher education, training, volunteering, and employment including supported employment. Support to access these opportunities and a focus on sustainable, independent living, including mental health and well-being, physical health exercise and healthy living, finance and benefit support, accommodation, legal advice, advocacy, and independence work. It will also work to expand existing social outlets, networks, and opportunities currently existing in the two charities.

The pilot has employed one full time member of staff, as service co-ordinator, and recruited peer support volunteers from amongst the North East brain injury community. These peer support volunteers are the start of the move into volunteering services for members, the recruits have been fully trained, and their role is to assist staff and volunteers with the delivery of the drop-in meetings already established by the two charities, workshops and activities and working in a supportive one to one role with beneficiaries accessing the Clearer Futures supported employment pathways. The aim will be for the peer support volunteers to be running the drop-ins with the project co-ordinators support.

As the pilot progresses, we intend to increase the number of drop-in meetings and services, increase the social interaction across the members, and move to develop relationships with local employers and education providers. Clearer Futures has already been recognised by higher educational establishments as a work placement provider for students. It is intended to continue to recruit peer support volunteers throughout the project with the hope that as peer support volunteers move onto supported employment, this will allow a role for a new volunteer.

The project is currently being funded by a commitment from both Headway Northumberland and Brainbox and various grants applied for. The pilot is intended to show the real need for such a service and what can be achieved with a view to obtaining further funding to allow the service to grow and develop over a sustained period.

It is an ambitious project but one all the trustees of both Headway Northumberland and Brainbox feel is both essential and achievable and one we are deeply committed to delivering.

Further information on both charities can be found on their websites:

Headway Northumberland