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Singing for health

The Right Key (TRK) is a musical performance Community Interest Company with a vision to bring about positive social change for people at the margins of society.

They deliver ‘singing for health’ workshops to improve the health, wellbeing and quality of life of disadvantaged groups and provide accommodation for recovering alcoholics/addicts at their newly renovated premises in Loughbrickland that has been their home for five years. The group also offers a range of services, community activities and volunteering opportunities.

TRK and Johnston’s Pharmacy worked in partnership previously on numerous successful BCPP projects and came together again this year to make another application. The group planned to work with recovering alcoholics/addicts, ex-offenders and those with poor mental health who are less likely to access healthcare services. The mixed group of people from across NI have different health and social needs though they all commonly suffer social marginalisation, disadvantage and inequalities of health. A series of 10 sessions led by Cathy Smyth, the Pharmacist and eight co facilitated sessions were planned on health and wider issues affecting the group. Varied and interactive, the content was relevant to the needs of the group.

In keeping with a community development approach, the group members were actively involved in all areas of the BCPP project including identifying and defining their community health needs. After each session, the group took part in a ‘singing for health’ workshop delivered by TRK musicians - the benefits of which were evident to see! Pharmacist Cathy Smyth used her expertise and knowledge to facilitate group discussions, identifying and offering advice on the health issues affecting the group as well as signposting group members to supporting agencies.

As Cathy co-facilitated sessions with external organisations, she also learnt about the services available within the community sector and the social issues affecting the group such as poverty, mental wellness, unemployment, imprisonment and housing. Similarly, participants learnt about the role of the pharmacist as an accessible local resource, providing expert knowledge and advice on a range of health issues. One key topic that the group wished to explore further was around developing parenting skills and rebuilding family relationships. Depression, sleeplessness, anxiety and despair were issues faced by some members of the group and the Mental Health Wellness Network delivered a session on health and wellbeing. Many were anxious, experiencing low mood and concerned about their future and their recovery because of Covid. This session introduced them to skills and techniques they could use every day to improve their mood.

A representative from Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders came in discuss the range of issues impacting on ex-offenders such as employment rights while Clanmil Housing gave advice on housing rights and the different types of accommodation available. ‘The group members have told us that the recovery programmes were a lifeline for them at this time of isolation and loneliness and that the pharmacy sessions were an essential part of their recovery.’ said Sheila Smyth from The Right Key. This BCPP project offered improved access to health services and resources and a reduction in health inequalities among our target group. As a result of the project eight members of the group were referred to community services and other health professionals for further support. Three members of the group have gone on to volunteer with TRK.

The pharmacy project is a great addition to ongoing recovery programmes at The Right Key. Continuing our work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic with our extremely vulnerable groups in need of services more than ever was so important for TRK. We were able to do this with our greatest asset of TRK - the knowledge and lived experience of the volunteers.’’

Sheila Smyth, Chief Executive, TRK

I believe this project was a great success due to everyone involved participating fully. We built up trust within the group which enabled the participants to discuss personal issues openly and shape the overall content of the sessions. The timing of the project was fantastic, coming post lockdown when the participants needed it most.”

Cathy Smyth, Pharmacist