In this episode, we hear from Into Work’s Wellbeing+ Coach, Felix Slavin who talks about the set up of the Wellbeing+ Service, the value of a co-production approach, and what future plans are in place moving forward.
Transcript for An Overview of the Wellbeing+ Service Episode
Hello and welcome to Into Work’s wellbeing plus podcast.
Host – Hi, I’m Ross McLean. I’m one of the Employment Advisors at Into Work. And today we’re going to be speaking to Felix Slavin, who is the wellbeing plus coach at into work. We’re going to be talking to him about the formation of that service, about how it’s progressing, and more importantly, what the plans are for the future.
Host – So Hi, Felix can you tell us what the wellbeing plus service is and how it got started?
Guest – Yeah, Ross. So, the wellbeing plus service was set up, basically in response to the needs of our clients during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. And before I joined the Into Work team in March 2021, some of our clients were asked what kind of support they would benefit most from during these difficult times, and wellbeing was the main area mentioned. And so when I came on board, I wanted to expand on that consultation work and released a survey to our wider client group in April 2021, and spoke to my colleagues as well asking questions about what they would like a wellbeing service to look like.
And our clients were looking for a wide range of support, stemming from anxiety management to getting involved in the community, increasing physical activity, building resilience and much, much more. The staff were highlighting that emotional support, resilience building, consistency, accessibility, and that aspect of engagement were the key themes for working with our clients. And more clients were looking for one to one support. And so this was made the priority. And by May 2021, I had brought all of that insight to co-design the wellbeing plus service. So I started to take in referrals from the Employment Advisors, including yourself Ross, at Into Work, and offered clients a minimum of six sessions with an opportunity to review their support needs, and consider extending that. Since then, I have received almost 40 referrals and have conducted over 140 hours of one to one support time and built up good partnerships with other local organisations that offer meaningful wellbeing support as well. And at the moment, this service is available to our own client group. But in the future, this may be able to change if the service grows and we have more resource.
Host – That’s an impressive amount of referrals already within that first year. But you mentioned that you engaged with clients and with staff as well from the start. So how are you continuing to ensure that the wellbeing plus service has been designed with clients in mind the whole time?
Guest – Yeah, so in the client survey that I released in April 2021, it also included an invitation to our clients to take part in a group that would effectively co-design and co-produce the wellbeing plus service. And we had several interested people and established a group of seven clients who call themselves the wellbeing plus team. So my job there is to support the group by coordinating and facilitating meetings, and also making sure that they have access to the relevant materials and resources for their review and feedback.
And the team have also been vital in supporting the development of this wellbeing plus podcast, as well as given great advice and direction on the development of wellbeing materials that we plan to use fairly soon. And it’s been great working with the client group on this development work. And to be honest, I can’t emphasise enough how much energy and dedication that they’ve put into the development of the wellbeing plus service.
Host – That’s brilliant. What are you noticing about the delivery of the wellbeing plus service? And what kind of impact is it having that you’ve noticed so far on Into Work clients?
Guest – Yeah, so I’ve been coordinating the service now for almost one year and I’ve gained a lot of insight through listening to clients and what they wish to talk about. In essence, people just want to be heard and understood – this is fundamental for everyone – and like all the staff at Into Work, I want to be someone who our clients feel really cares about and listens to what they’re saying. And I really enjoy that feeling of being able to validate what people are thinking and feeling. Having been someone who has dealt with my own levels of anxiety throughout life, I am absolutely aware of how difficult it can be to hear the things your brain just seems to randomly focus your attention on or, how it can be hard to interact with people and the world. And compound that with stresses of life like financial problems, unemployment, managing a long term health condition. And it’s clearly important to give people an opportunity to talk through their thoughts and feelings. And sometimes receiving the message that actually this is normal and Okay is what helps rather than looking for a solution right there. And in fact, the feedback I have had most from clients so far has been that they really valued having someone to talk to and having been treated with respect. And I think that the biggest difference that approach is making to clients is allowing them to have some time to feel like they have been helped, alongside the support that they receive from Into Work in general.
And another reflection to make is how beneficial it is to take time in addressing or exploring certain issues in our life’s. And sometimes we step into interventions, and that can feel like we need to do these things, or it won’t work, or it feels like a lot of pressure. But we can also feel how certain styles of intervention can reinforce this idea that there is something wrong with us, when in actual fact, we all have our own way of doing things. And that is why the wellbeing plus services is very flexible and accessible at its core.
Host – I mean that’s really an important thing for it to have. I think that the approach is really working in tandem with the stuff that we do as Employment Advisors. But what’s it been like, working with Employment Advisors, and also with a welfare rights officer Alan Into Work?
Guest – Yeah, it’s been excellent, I’ve really enjoyed being part of the team. And I really wanted to get everybody involved and excited about getting this service up and running. And so the initial consultation work that was done really helped with that. I have been made very welcome by everyone in the team. And we’ve created streamlined pathways for working together to support clients and, and most of the time, I will work quite closely with an Employment Advisor to help a client at different stages of the employment journey. However, sometimes I might step in to support a client initially, before they are ready to start receiving employment support. And again, we are really wanting to give our clients that level of flexibility and accessibility that they need.
Host – That’s great. So I mean, one final question for you then. And this is a big one. What do you have planned for the future of the wellbeing plus service?
Guest – It’s definitely growing and developing and now with COVID-19 restrictions lessening to an extent it does open up opportunities to adapt our ways of working. We have recently been developing materials for group sessions along with support from the wellbeing plus team and we want to make them available to our client group later this year. And this will comprise of a series of group sessions covering areas like building motivation, core values, understanding wellbeing and stress, taking control, coping strategies, resilience, goalsetting and much more.
We are also in contact with some of other organisations about possible joint working to complement our plans for group sessions. And we have had input from the wellbeing plus team on the design of these materials, as I said. It will be really exciting, new inclusion to our wellbeing plus service. And there’s also a lot of discussion happening just now about how we can bring clients together through a form of peer mentoring or peer to peer support. And we are carrying out some interesting pieces of work to determine how this could be developed.
Host – Thanks very much for your time, Felix and for answering my questions. It sounds like there’s a lot of exciting things planned. You’ve done some great work so far already. And yeah, here’s to exciting times ahead.
Guest – Absolutely. It’s been my pleasure being involved in the setup of this project and long may continue. Thanks for your time, Ross really appreciate that.
Into Work wishes to thank the funders of our wellbeing plus service. Thank you to the national lotteries Awards for All, The Community’s Recovery Fund, The Pump House Trust, the Response Recovery and Resilience Fund. The Souter Charitable Trust and the W M Mann Foundation. With your help, we have been able to respond effectively to the needs of our clients during the COVID-19 public health pandemic and continue offering our wellbeing support as the service continues to grow and develop.
Please help us by spreading the word about our new wellbeing plus podcast, and work as an Edinburgh based charity supporting people with physical disability and long term health conditions to find and sustain meaningful employment. This podcast is dedicated to sharing the stories of people with lived experience of physical disability, and long term health conditions as well as their experience of supported employment and wellbeing management. You can also help support us bPlease help us by spreading the word about our new wellbeing plus podcast. Into work is an Edinburgh based charity supporting people with physical disability and long term health conditions to find and sustain meaningful employment. This podcast is dedicated to sharing the stories of people with lived experience of physical disability, and long term health conditions as well as their experience of supported employment and wellbeing management. You can also help support us by going on our website at www.intowork.org.uk. If you have any questions about the podcast, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you for listening in.