MM – Michael McEwan
LM – Lauren May
MM Okay now on Iriss.fm we are in the Neighbourhood Networks office in Glasgow and we're speaking to Lauren May who is the Network Manager for Glasgow. So, first of all, Lauren, can you tell us what is Neighbourhood Networks?
LM So, Neighbourhood Networks facilitates networks of peer support in communities for adults who have a learning disability, mental health problems, people who have physical disabilities as well or just generally anybody who is isolated in their community. A network is made up of 9 people who all live locally to each other and they're supported by a community live-in worker. So, the community live-in worker lives in the community where the network is based and they provide flexible support to members of the network and that's negotiated between the community live-in worker and the network member depending on what support they need. So, the community live-in worker works flexibly over the week supporting members of the network and their main job is to encourage network members to be as independent as possible, build relationships with each other with people in the network, connect to what's happening in the community, become like active citizens and encourage people to offer like a contribution back to their community.
MM So what is your vision and values of Neighbourhood Networks?
LM So Neighbourhood Networks' mission statement is, "Working with people in our neighbourhoods to support each other, to live independently in our own homes and to follow our dreams. Together anything is possible." So, a huge part of Neighbourhood Networks' vision is for members in the organisation to play a much bigger part in their community and think of kind of new ways of making connections and supporting communities to use the skills and the gifts that they've got to make the place that they live better and for people to be more included in that as well and we believe that the more connections people have then the better hopefully and the more fulfilling that their lives will be.
MM So have you got networks all over Scotland?
LM Mostly our work's in the central belt of Scotland. So at the moment we've got networks in North Lanarkshire, West Dumbarton, Glasgow, East Renfrewshire, East Ayrshire and Edinburgh as well. So, we've got 22 networks in total in this organisation.
MM Have they all worked?
LM Yes, uh huh!
MM Are you looking to expand that through time or…?
LM Yes, uh huh, gradually we've been expanding the networks so we have.
MM That's good. So, what is a network? Can you tell us what's involved?
LM So a network encourages people to kind of build their confidence and self-esteem and reduce people's reliance on paid support through the relationships that they make with other members of the network and the connections that they make in the community. The network encourages peoples to use their skills and gifts and the things that they're good at and to bring that out in people and we also support people in eight kind of different areas. Eight different kind of outcome areas where we do support planning with people. So, depending on what somebody's looking for and what support they're looking for it could be things like independent travel, making friendships and relationships, support with money management, support with their confidence and self-esteem, community participation, life skills, health and wellbeing and employment and volunteering. So it really just depends what support people are looking for, but that's generally the kind of outcomes that we work with people in.
MM So basically what you're saying is people tell you what support they need and stuff like that, yes?
MM And to they work at the weekends as well or is it just like Monday to Friday?
LM Yes the community live-in worker works flexibly over the week so that can be evenings, weekends, during the week just depending on what network members are looking for really and networks meet up, we have a monthly network meeting where all of the members of the network get together with the community live-in worker and they discuss what's been happening, what's gone on in the community that people might like to get involved with, what's happening in the organisation and it's a chance for people to kind of plan it over the next month when they're going to meet up and what they would like to do and that kind of thing.
MM So what is the difference Neighbourhood Networks can make to individual people? Like do you see a difference as when you start working with people until say you know six months down the line or, you know whatever. Do you see a change in their confidence as well?
LM Yes. I think because Neighbourhood Networks is a member led organisation and the networks are led by the members as well that encourages people to be more confident and to make their own decisions and to think about what's important to them and obviously the support of Neighbourhood Networks is flexible as well so we don't, we support people when they need it and not when they don't need it, and as well we kind of encourage obviously different opportunities for people to take so that it helps them kind of develop their confidence as well. So, they've also got support of the other members in the network as well.
MM And is it a particular person, you don't have to mention the person's name but have you noticed a good difference in their confidence from when they started using your kind of like service to basically six months down the line or six weeks.
LM Yes a lot of our members they tell us that before they were part of the network they were in the house basically, sitting watching telly, doing nothing and now they're just out all the time and their diary's full of stuff and meeting up with other people and a lot of people have obviously learned travel skills, how to travel independently and such as well which obviously offers people a lot more kind of freedom as well to go out and do other things. So, yes, definitely a big difference for being part of the network.
MM I saw when I was doing some research for the interview about, I quite like this DVD is it your Small Steps DVD? Tell us a bit about that because it looked pretty fun when people were going out to different nights out and stuff like that.
LM Yes so that was, that's on our website that DVD and it was filmed quite a while ago now but it's still quite relevant as well the message in it. So, it was just trying to kind of highlight the effect that being isolated has on people and shows the difference that being included can make. So, and in that DVD members all got together and they were having a Ceilidh. That was the kind of theme of the DVD and it was just trying to get across that many of our members are really quite isolated before they join the network and obviously, the DVD shows the importance of kind of being included in your community and the difference it makes.
MM It is a good DVD. So how can people get involved in Neighbourhood Networks either to volunteer or to join Neighbourhood Networks?
LM Well to be a member of the network people can self-refer. So, if they've heard about the network and are interested in it we've got a self-referral form that people can fill in and then somebody from the office, the Network Manager for that area would get back to them and kind of have a conversation with them about the network. There's also a recommendation form that we have that a professional who might be working with you could complete. So, that could be like a Job Coach or a Social Worker. So, that just kind of outlines why they think somebody would benefit from the support of a network. Volunteers as well. We're always looking for people to come and share their skills and get involved with the networks as well. So, that would again just be the same process basically. If somebody has an interest in finding out more about the organisation, ways they can get involved, they could just contact us at our office and we've also got, obviously, information on our website as well. A lot of the things that the networks do in the communities as well are open to anybody to come along to. They're not inclusively for people in Neighbourhood Networks. So, we regularly update our Facebook page with things that are happening, what networks are kind of putting on like fundraising events and walking group, and I think what the members in Kilmarnock are organising a Ceilidh, that kind of thing. So, that's a good way for people to kind of find out what's happening and get involved as well. Members put stories up as well about things that they've been doing and things that they've been involved with so that's quite a good way to kind of keep connected to what the organisation is doing, and we also have Quality Street meetings that happen four times a year. So, that's kind of our members' forum and that's a kind of chance for us to explore issues that are current and relevant at the time for members. So, usually that's in the form of kind of workshops and people coming along to give us information and again they're open to anybody to come along to.
MM So, this is your chance to promote your website and your Facebook, if you can remember. So, if people want to get involved what's the website address and the phone number?
LM So our website is www.neighbourhoodnetworks.org, the phone number for our office is 0141 440 1005 and our Facebook page is Neighbourhood Networks.