Mark Graham – working on the Bourneville estate
Life is tough for people living in South Ward. The number of children living in poverty is particularly acute here – in fact Weston-super-Mare South is the worst ward in all of the South West for child income deprivation.
It’s an area of Weston-Super-Mare that is unknown to most people in the West of England but take a visit there and you’ll see a place that needs support and gets it from a small, dedicated team.
Mark Graham, Chief Executive of the For All Healthy Living Centre, is the driving force, pulling together different organisations needed to improve the mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing of residents in South Ward. From primary health care and services for children and families to community learning opportunities, the Centre battles to help people move their lives forward.
“Mental health problems are a particular problem here,” says Mark. North Somerset has the second highest recorded rate of adult depression in the South West, well above the national average and isolated elderly people are particularly vulnerable.
“We’ve had many grants from Quartet over the years and the grant to keep the lunch club for older people going was vital. For people who rarely get out of their homes, the friendship of other club members and the contact with the volunteers that escort them to and from the centre is truly appreciated.
“There are health benefits too. Our informal monitoring of members’ attendance and health can be a vital primary indication of any deterioration in their condition. We’ve managed to improve the service by developing the social and emotional support we offer too.”
With no wealthy suburb nearby and few local businesses able to support South Ward, it’s a place that is far off the radar of funders and those that do hear about it can easily misinterpret the data about the progress that Mark and his team make.
“We know our work here makes a difference to people’s lives. Although the statistics still look grim, we see that people are moving on with their lives, leaving chaotic lifestyles behind, getting skills and jobs. But then they move out of the area and new people move in, often bringing tough problems with them. So the numbers can look just as bad.
“If a funder just looked at the numbers and wanted to see impact and progress, they wouldn’t support us. We’re grateful that Quartet understands how things are here and has the local knowledge to look behind the numbers and keep helping us so that families living here aren’t abandoned. We can and do make progress – with Quartet’s help.”