Simon Bowkett, the Chief Executive of Exeter CVS, spoke on the background, philosophy and development of the new Hub.
Exeter CVS had with Devon Doctors (delivering local NHS primary care services to vulnerable groups) and Working Links (delivering Community Rehabilitation under the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme) secured £440,000 from Public Health England’s Recovery Capital Fund to transform Wat-Tyler House into the Exeter Engagement Hub.
A systems review of the services was being undertaken to deliver an integrated health and well being hub for people with a range of needs and capacities covering substance misuse, mental health and offender management services integrated with adult learning, volunteering programmes, housing advice and finance and debt management.
Services included the Clock Tower GP service, the probation service, substance misuse support, SHOT, Eddystone (HIV/STD etc.), Bicton College and Julian House (street homeless). These bodies were represented on a Management Steering Group including representatives of the City and County Councils.
Ivan Jordan, the architect, had designed the building based on (and shaped like) a river reflecting a life’s journey from potentially chaotic beginnings to more placid and settled futures with an “ocean of opportunities”. One end of the building focused on crisis management and, moving through the building, advice and guidance was provided on housing, training, education and skills etc. to help build better futures. The physical layout of the interior promoted connectivity between the agencies with shared meeting spaces to facilitate the exchange of information. There was no reception desk, everyone entering the building being greeted by an individual, usually a volunteer, to ensure the individual is re-assured and helped immediately as well as providing some security for the building and staff. Other examples of assistance included John Lewis which had committed staff to train volunteers in customers care skills.
The Project had received national recognition with presentations made to national bodies as well as visits by Minsters, the Cabinet Office and Police forces.
Phase I would be completed by Mid October with work on the remainder of the building to be completed by April 2016.
He responded to Members’ queries:-
· because of the physical constraints of the building it had not been possible to accommodate other providers in the City such as St Petrock’s, Gabriel House etc;
· addressing homelessness was a key element and Simon served on the ICE Board with work also being undertaken through the Homelessness Strand and the Homelessness Strategy Task Group which included St Petrocks; Exeter Community Initiatives, Big Issue, RISE and, Gabriel House. One of the aims of ICE was to strengthen the care pathway for the homeless on release from hospital etc.
· the Hub had been designed to be user friendly so that clients were encouraged to engage with all services on offer. The presence of a range of services would help provide immediate assistance with other agencies as there were ongoing concerns that delays of three months could occur in some cases before treatment;
· access to mental health treatment was a particular concern and the need for dual diagnosis was vital in many cases. Gabriel House employed mental health specialists within its Mental Health Crisis Outreach, as did SHOT;
· work with the Big Issue Foundation who had set up a pilot scheme – “Enterprise Zone” offering both work placements and enterprise, the latter proving more successful because of the nature of individuals within this cohort; AND
· Bindu Arjoon, the City Council’s Assistant Director Customer Access, was developing an appropriate governance model for the Hub.
The Chair thanked Simon for his presentation.