Wakefield partners come together during COVID-19 to provide mental health crisis Safe Space

2020 brought its challenges but also in Wakefield and district the creation and delivery of a new offer – Safe Space.

Underway virtually in October and physically in December, Safe Space is now helping people in mental health crisis to find support and help in a non-clinical setting and proving its worth.  

"It's a safe place to be and the staff are really friendly, caring and compassionate. It's helped me find a sense of belonging and purpose" 
- Non-binary visitor in their 20s 

Despite all the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, strong partnerships were formed early in 2020 and active listening to local people with lived experience saw Safe Space evolve. 

Strong and passionate amongst those voices is Dawn Bland, local activist, who has fought for a ‘safe place’, a refuge, for many years. Dawn gave voice to what many identified as a gap locally, and her poems and paintings acted as a catalyst. 

Led by NHS Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and local mental health alliance and driven by many in the third and charitable sector, Safe Space was commissioned and is now being provided by lead charity Touchstone, together with Spectrum People and Gasped - both based in Wakefield. 

Generosity by leaders and individuals alike resulted in hundreds of hours spent in virtual design of what Safe Space should look and feel like. Following three months, NHS Wakefield CCG led the procurement resulting in the partnership of Touchstone with Gasped and Spectrum People. 

Now provided three evenings a week (Friday to Sunday, 6pm to midnight), a simple phone call referral or self-referral secures the help and support adults experiencing significant mental health issues need. 

With a team of six now appointed and running Safe Space the next step is giving the offer a name and identity. 

As Leanne Warren, the service manager, says: “The mobilisation of Safe Space has been a fantastic achievement for our team. The team have worked dynamically and creatively in order to provide a supportive, essential service for the people of Wakefield and district. We are excited about developing the service alongside our co-production team to ensure that the voice of the people who visit the space is at the heart of what we do” 

The partnership looked at various potential physical bases and asked those with lived experience to choose the final venue. With its welcoming, comfortable, friendly and relaxing space, Safe Space is welcomed by Sydney Thornberry, CEO, of The Art House, the chosen central Wakefield location.

She said: “The Art House is a home for our community.  Our role isn't just to support people's creativity, but also the wellbeing of our wider community.  

“We are thrilled to be part of this ground breaking partnership and are so pleased that the Art House will be able to act as a refuge for those who are suffering mental health distress, especially during such a crucial period.”

Mel Brown, NHS Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Programme Commissioning Director for Integrated Care, added: “We are extremely privileged and proud to have worked with the Mental Health Alliance as part of a crisis transformation programme to provide this priority service for the people of Wakefield.

“Collaboration with a variety of key organisations and co-design of the service with local people ran through the project right the way through and has given us all a sense of ownership over the Safe Space.

“We now look forward to it becoming a crucial part of our mental health offer and its integration with other services to give people the timely support they need most in a supportive and encouraging environment.”