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Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commisioning Group

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Men’s health project launch to mark International Men’s Day

A new community project in Newcastle’s West End launches on 20 November, helping to mark International Men’s Day.

The Scotswood Men’s Shed is a volunteer-led organisation, funded by NHS Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). It aims to tackle social isolation in the West End of the city, particularly amongst retired or unemployed men.

Men’s Sheds create a place where men are able to carry out such practical activities as metalwork, joinery, mechanics and electronics. They allow individuals to come together to share the tools, resources and knowledge that they need to work on projects in a safe, friendly environment, helping to build confidence and to make new friends.

The Men’s Shed idea was established in Australia in the 1990’s. Since then it has grown throughout the world, with nearly 200 branches in the UK.

Scotswood Centre chair and shed founder, Leigh Davison, said “I applied for funding from NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG’s innovation fund to set up a men’s shed following my own experiences of social isolation and loss of purpose.

“When I was made redundant last year, I found it difficult to maintain an active social life. I missed the daily interactions with work colleagues, and financially I could not afford to socialise very often. I found myself stuck in a rut and struggled to find suitable employment, which led to low mood and a sense of helplessness.”

Leigh added, “It was clear to me that the idea would fit well into this community and could help tackle social isolation and loneliness for men.

“Men’s sheds have a proven track record in improving mental health, raising self-esteem and confidence levels of members. Members are more likely to talk shoulder to shoulder about health issues rather than face to face.”

Manager of the Scotswood Centre, Richard Evans, said “We support the community with many projects at the Scotswood Centre, including a volunteer-led community post office, a cafe and community shop.

“Historically, we mainly delivered youth projects from the centre, but as grant funding proves more difficult to obtain, we have focussed our efforts on supporting enterprises and volunteer led projects.

“The men’s shed fits well into our centre, and has already generated a lot of interest. Initially, it will be held weekly, but if there is interest from new members we have capacity to open the space more often.”

Angela Ellins, Chair of the Newcastle Men’s Health Inequality Steering Group explains the shed’s link to International Men’s Day: “International Men’s Day focuses on issues surrounding inequalities in men’s health provision. We know that men are less likely to seek support on mental health issues, and initiatives like men’s sheds offer an innovative intervention to help improve mental health and social isolation.”

The Scotswood shed was funded by NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG, using money from their ‘third sector development and innovation fund scheme.’ The scheme recognises the role that the voluntary and community sector can play in supporting and delivering services, and how it can support the CCG in reaching out to different areas of the community.

Dr Guy Pilkington, Clinical Chair of NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG said “We have set aside some of our budget to help us fund innovative projects, such as the Men’s Shed, that we think will help to improve people’s health.

“High levels of deprivation exist across different communities and areas of Newcastle. The west end of the city particularly includes individuals and groups of people that are hard to reach in terms of engaging with services, and the Scotswood Men’s Shed aims to help us address these issues.”

The Scotswood Men’s Shed launch event will be held at the Scotswood Centre, at 12:30pm this Friday. It will include demonstrations of typical shed activities and provide the opportunity to meet staff and shed members. Refreshments will also be provided.