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Event to share success of occupational therapy service for Leeds’s homeless population


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A pilot scheme to deliver occupational therapy to the homeless population of Leeds is improving people’s health, wellbeing and occupational engagement, an evaluation by academics at Leeds Beckett University has shown.

Entrance to St George's Crypt

St. George's Crypt, working in partnership with Leeds Beckett, NHS Leeds South and East Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Leeds Community Foundation has developed the pilot scheme over the past year and is hosting an event on Monday 6 March to share the findings of the evaluation. 

Occupational Therapy (OT) helps people to participate in daily life to improve their health and wellbeing. Daily life is made up of many meaningful occupations, such as looking after ourselves, cooking a meal, engaging in hobbies or working. An occupational therapist provides support and advice if people are unable to engage in their occupations due to illness, disability, age or circumstances. 

By developing a clinical service at the main point of client service access, St. George’s Crypt aimed to improve health and wellbeing by intervening before non-threatening ailments degrade into serious conditions and require more acute and costly medical interventions. 

The evaluation of the service was carried out by Susan Coan and Dr James Woodall from the Centre for Health Promotion at Leeds Beckett. Susan explained: “Our report found that more than 350 OT sessions were organised at St. George’s Crypt between April and December 2016 for individuals who demonstrate particularly high levels of social and health inequalities. This suggests two things: first, a clear demand for the service, and second, the ability to access a marginalised population that can otherwise be difficult to engage in traditional primary care or social services.  Broadly speaking, this illustrates that the service is improving people’s health, wellbeing and occupational engagement.” 

A total of 94 clients were referred to the Occupational Therapist at St. George’s Crypt during this time, with needs ranging from access to courses, adaptations for disabilities, meaningful occupation such as volunteering or education, social interaction, mental health issues such as anger management and increasing self-esteem, hobbies and having someone to accompany them to meetings. 

Rebecca Wint, the Occupational Therapist delivering the pilot said: “This has been an excellent opportunity as an Occupational Therapist to work with adults who are homeless and vulnerable in Leeds. It has been apparent from the initial stages how valuable meaningful occupation, the core of the profession, is, as it has been applied to support people from all walks of life. 

“People present at St George’s Crypt with multiple complex issues, both physical and psychosocial, which impact upon function. Through occupational therapy intervention, people have been supported, in very personalised ways, to overcome such issues and to improve their health and wellbeing. It is felt that the service being delivered within a centre that people feel comfortable accessing has been key to its success.”

The pilot has been supported over the past 12 months by Mandy Graham, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at Leeds Beckett, who provided initial consultation for the bid application, recruitment to the post and ongoing monthly professional supervision to the service. 

Andrew Omond, Project Manager at St. George’s Crypt, added: “This project has been eye-opening; after research carried out by two Leeds Beckett occupational therapy students on placement at St. George’s Crypt highlighted the added benefits of delivering Occupational Therapy to homeless populations accessing the Crypt, we knew a need existed but the take-up of the service has far exceeded our expectations. The evaluation has reinforced this need, highlighted the breadth of physical and mental health needs and shone a light on an unseen issue met through community provision.” 

The event will take place from 11am to 2pm. Places are free and can be booked here. 

After an introduction by Andrew Omond, Rebecca Wint will share case studies and results from the project, a client will share their experience of using the service, and Dr James Woodall and Susan Coan will discuss the implications of their evaluation. This will be followed by a chance for discussion and questions and a networking lunch.

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