If I were to ask you to think of the town Barry in Wales, many of us would only have the TV show Gavin and Stacey for reference. We imagine every neighbour is an Uncle Bryn and there’s always a friendly face about to share a pint with. Something this idyllic can’t be real life though can it? A new community centre is working to prove that the “family” feel of the town from Gavin and Stacey might not actually be far from reality.
Tammi Owen’s professional and personal experiences had shown her that the community in Barry, like any region, had vulnerable people who weren’t getting the real care and help they needed. Some of the people closest to her were evidence that those in need in Barry didn’t have the right facilities in place. Enter Tammi and her vision for a community support centre driven by the community needs, for the community, run by the community.
“Going back to the core of social work principles. Putting people, communities and partnerships at the heart of solutions."
I had a chance to speak to Tammi about this new endeavour shaking up the streets of Barry and it’s a conversation that has really stuck with me. There are countless people working tirelessly like Tammi across the UK to help the vulnerable but to hear first-hand her unwavering love for not only the area but the people who make up her community; it’s truly remarkable. Her love for Barry sound like something out of a TV show, but her heart is so genuine you can’t help but share in the drive for this project to succeed.
Here’s just a small insight into this fantastic project.
Tammi, tell me about your background in social work and your interest in mental health.
I started my social work career working within a multidiscipline mental health team in the heart of the diverse cultural city of Cardiff, worked mainly with young people with major mental health diagnoses and ran support groups. I then moved into Children Social Services and then ended up in Residential Care. After I decided to leave social work, I went back to university to re-train as a psychotherapist and clinical supervisor; and I’ve now spent the last 14 years working within the field of domestic abuse and mental health.
Although I moved away from front-line practice, I’ve never really stopped feeling passionate about social work and 3 years ago was privileged to be part of the partnership that set up a whole family intervention called Choices for Change. It’s intensely whole family approaches with those affected by mental health, substance use and domestic abuse; and really looks at teaching families how to communicate better.
How does Heroes Rights fit into things?
Alongside my work within social work, I’ve been very fortunate to have delivered services for different agencies such as domestic abuse services, programmes for men and women. 2 years ago, I set up Heroes Rights – a not for profit organisation to spread awareness on the impact of male victims of domestic abuse and whole families. Last year Heroes Rights established a Peer to Peer Network, a support network for anyone working with or supporting people.
Our membership is for anyone that wishes to meet with likeminded people, to share best practices, to drive social change and most importantly to work together collaboratively not competitively. People who work with the vulnerable often forget to look after our own self-care. Our mission statement is simple: who else supports the supporters.
“Social workers are taught to put our own emotions in a box."
For those not lucky enough to live in lovely Barry, paint us a picture of what it’s like in a social work context.
The social workers in Barry do a great job and families are responding really well to the new Family Support line from Social Services, but we have a really high turnover. This means families find it difficult to establish trusting relationships with the support mechanisms, so they don’t get the real help they need.
Despite all this though, Barry communities’ strengths are that when the community comes together, they really go above and beyond. They really engage and get stuck into what they want to achieve.
Why a community centre?
From the very start, this project has come from the community. The people of Barry made it clear that support services were badly needed for mental health, domestic abuse and substance abuse. They felt that a whole family approach, where everyone could access support and services all under one roof, with 1 point of contact throughout their time was of the utmost importance. They want to feel part of a community, to have access to whole family services rather than be split up to access support, to develop tools and techniques to communicate and improve their relationships whilst gaining support at the centre. This has translated into our vision of putting people, communities and partnerships at the heart of solutions.
How did you decide what to include?
Heroes Rights and the community came together to plan what the service should look like and what types of interventions and activities they would need. The idea of having a peer mentor to support the person/family at the centre came from the community; which was then broadened to have ‘buddy’ training for community members to support the person.
What is the main mission for the centre?
We want to create a culture where people are the expert in their own lives. We want the interventions, activities and support delivered to the community maintains the people at the heart of their solutions. When the culture allows people to be the voice of expertise about their own lives, they can take responsibility for themselves and their actions, developing an inherent resilience.
“The fundamental is that this is such a simple process: the person is the expert”
How are you and the community making sure it fits in with the needs?
This centre has been set up understanding the thoughts and feelings from the community who it is for. We’ve spoken to as many people as we can, involving them in the process to shape the centre and informed them at every stage what developments were happening. This is not something I or anyone else is presenting to Barry, it’s being made completely in partnership with those who need this centre. 8 community members with different lived in experiences will be board members for the centre, 10 volunteers for community buddy training and 2 single mums with social anxiety working on fundraising events. Barry is showing its true colours and coming together as a community, for the community.
Finally, what do you want people to know about the GoFundMe page?
The fundraising is both the most and least important part of this process. Everything we’re doing is driven by the people we’ll help, the volunteers getting involved and the heart of Barry working together. However, to achieve that, we need the funds to enact the centre. We want to raise awareness about why this centre is needed. We all have a loved one who has faced their demons, and those who lost that battle left a permanent mark on their community. This GoFundMe page is a way for the community and its supporters to come together to help drive change for lives tragically derailed by mental health, domestic abuse or substance abuse.
Contributed in collaboration with Tammi Owen.
Tammi’s passion for this project comes from a love for the community, but also from a very personal understanding of how these issues are so widespread and yet so hidden within families. She’s continuing this work in memory of her nephew, Kameron Chatwell, a bright young man who tragically lost his life this week as a result of alcohol abuse. He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him, and Tammi hopes his life will encourage others to recognise the changes that are needed to protect the vulnerable.
"Alcohol is still something we don’t understand. We don’t know how to drink responsibly. If somebody reading this either looks at self-care or thinks about a general different way of working, then it’s worth it."
While you're here...
Just like the team in Barry, we firmly believe that relationships within a community matter. That’s why we want you to join our collective, so that you can share your ideas and contribute unique insight into modern practice. We want the future of social work to be for everyone, and we can only achieve that by uniting and working as one community.