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Meet the Team – Education Services

Posted: 20/11/20

Welcome to our ‘Meet the Team’ series. Today, we’re introducing the education services team. 

Part of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, a provider of mental health and disability services, the education team helps patients achieve success in functional skills.

Based at Northgate Hospital in Morpeth and Bamburgh Clinic at St Nicholas Hospital, the service is made up of a dedicated team of three; education lead Helen Sonnenfeld, adult education tutor Ashley Briggs and assistant practitioner Louise Charlton.

The service runs a range of voluntary courses for service users, from English and Maths, to online basics, budgeting and money management, creative writing, volunteering, and skills for employment.

By offering initial assessments, the team helps identify what area service users may need to work on. They provide both accredited and non-accredited qualifications, helping service users gain skills and knowledge that will prepare them for retuning back into the community. There are also leisure-based courses available.

The education team also works closely with the Recovery College that offers free courses and activities including confidence building, peer mentor courses and mindfulness. The college is a place where service users can make connections and develop skills to help with their recovery.

For education lead Helen, the best part of being in the team is being able to work closely with service users. “We work with many people over a number of months and years, which develops strong relationships and get the most out of the people we help.

“It might sound cheesy but we get to see how we make a difference on a regular basis. This can be as simple as someone starting to attend sessions regularly because they feel comfortable with us or someone being able to weigh something in the kitchen because they have learnt to count or have started reading a book.

“A number of the people we work with had a bad experience at school and left without any qualifications and they get their first qualifications with us. One really nice part of the job is the award ceremony we do which recognises the patients’ hard work and determination over the programme.”

Bamburgh Clinic and Northgate Hospital are part of the Trust’s secure care services. Bamburgh Clinic provides assessment and treatment for men who have a mental illness or personality disorder, while Northgate Hospital provides assessment and treatment for men with a learning disability. Both sites care for men who have come into conflict with the law and/ or are thought to be a risk to others or themselves.