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Changing Lives… By Changing Outlooks

Changing Lives… By Changing Outlooks

Changing Lives participant Kelly Baptist (left) with Amy Ofield, Assistant Psychologist with the programme at the Chase Park Music Festival - an annual event for people with disabilities.

A new lottery-funded Momentum Skills project is having a dramatic effect on the lives of people with brain injuries.

Changing Lives North of Tyne was only launched in February this year but it is already helping over 50 people with a range of neurological conditions in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

It has been set up to try to overcome one of the key problems which affect people with brain injuries – the feeling of isolation.

The project aims to reduce social isolation and exclusion by providing a “pathway of rehabilitation” starting with offering support to people to re-engage with activities they used to participate in or simply to access other activities in the local area that they have never tried.

Changing Lives is a partnership between Momentum Skills and the Stroke Association and it works closely with Momentum’s existing services in the Newcastle area including Access to Work.

Kelly Oliver Dougall, Community Integration Co-ordinator with Momentum Skills, says, “Brain injury has a massive impact on a person’s life - affecting confidence, mobility, emotions and employment.

“It can also affect relationships with family members which can sometimes break down because of the pressures that can result from a brain injury.

“Our new Changing Lives service aims to support not only people who have had a brain injury, but also their family members and carers so that they feel less isolated and can start to gain a sense of belonging in their community again.”

Changing Lives uses existing provision where appropriate or sets up groups where there is a need.

These groups will be based around a particular interest, such as photography, singing, cooking, bowling or walking or might be based around a particular condition – for example the epilepsy group which was identified and set up shortly after the service launched.

The service is person-centred and can work with people on a one-to-one basis as well as in groups and is tailored to their individual circumstances. As an example, the project can provide adjustment sessions, cognitive therapy or travel training.

Pre-vocational support offers assistance in exploring occupational opportunities and identifying areas of vocational interest whether this involves employment, training or education.

The project is also working with a bank of employers to improve perceptions of neurological conditions.

In the few months since it was launched it is already receiving plaudits for plugging gaps in existing provision for people with brain injuries.

Oliver Dougall adds, “Many people with a brain injury will develop other medical issues, such as epilepsy, and this can have a massive impact on their confidence when going out. We will meet with the person at their home, offering individual support and tailoring our service to their needs.

“The overall aim of the service is to promote independence, confidence and self-esteem and all activities will reflect this – gradually building in engagement in community activities, then phasing out our support, all the time working with the individual to ensure this is at the right pace.”

Changing Lives North of Tyne will build upon the success of a similar service South of Tyne which supports people who have suffered a stroke.

The unique multi-disciplinary team is made up of Community Integration Co-ordinators, a Job Coach and an Assistant Psychologist and can provide a range of interventions to support people with a range of different needs.

The new project also links in with the strengths of the Stroke Association and the systems, skills and expertise of the staff there. The two organisations work jointly to share best practice and to ensure that they provide the best service to people who access the project.

A major plus is that because the service is Lottery-funded there is no cost to either the person who uses the service or the referrer.

Referrals to the service can be made by anyone – including health professionals, family members or carers as well as the person with the condition themselves – by contacting Changing Lives on 0191 232 0234 or by email