Social Eyes opened its doors for the first time on Saturday 11th June 2016, it was named Social Eyes – The Breakfast Club. It was a half day provision and both Claire & Faye were so nervous about opening for the first time, they challenged themselves to try and get at least 10 service users attending on that first day. They were blown away when they exceeded ten. The Breakfast Club grew over the upcoming weeks and very quickly did the team (who at this point were all volunteers). The socialising, making new friends, having breakfast together proved to be a real hit & due to the demand the Breakfast Club soon become an all-day provision on a Saturday.
The Saturday club was their first step in their ambition to open a day service Monday – Friday. Faye and Claire were still working full time at Oaks Day centre but any spare evening and weekend was spent planning & putting the footings in place for the Monday – Friday vision they hoped would become a reality.
They always say luck & fate play a hand in life and when Teresa May announced a general election on Thursday 8th June 2017 it gave them the chance to run a full- day provision in the week (something they had not done before), because Oaks Day centre was used as a polling station so the service users could not attend their normal provision. They asked the customers who attended the Saturday Club if they would like to try a one-off Thursday provision. The places were filled in minutes of asking parents / carers. Faye & Claire wanted this day to be special, they needed the service users to have a great time & for everyone to be impressed with what they were offering. They opted to try and offer the popular activities they knew the service users enjoyed participating in. They brainstormed & decided to approach Wathwood Hospital to inquire if it would be possible to use their swimming pool facility (they knew swimming was popular) for their morning provision. The afternoon was decided to be a drama/performance opportunity which they knew was equally popular, so they contacted The High Street Centre to see if they could use their main room. For Claire & Faye the excitement was now palpable as both establishments gave them the thumbs up, turning their first full day provision into a great success due to two local organisations supporting their vision.
And it turned out to be just that, a fabulous day was had by all.
This gave Faye & Claire the final push and self-belief they needed; they quit their jobs with RMBC and decided to dedicate the next six months to launching the service & building the vision they were so passionate about.
There were endless meetings, sleepless nights, tears, laughter and exhausting days, however service users started noticing their service vision, from the leaflets they were distributing far and wide.
August 1st 2017, they secured their first customer into the service, this was also the first customer to use a direct payment too. The numbers grew slowly and they spent their days getting out and about in their cars and supporting the 2/3 people who had joined the service.
No exaggeration, but right from the first day Social Eyes day service grew every month, and carried on growing until Covid 19 temporarily shut the service in March 2020.
The service now supports over 80 service users Monday – Friday and the famous Saturday club has an average weekly attendance of 35 people. The staff team grew in size and they have been fortunate in the high calibre, professional, hardworking, caring staff that have been attracted to the Social Eyes vision, working with dedication & professionalism in all areas of their roles.
The timetable on offer at Social Eyes is key to providing happiness, stimulation, confidence and improving wellbeing; while it enables service users to learn new skills and make new friendships. The timetable is created by the service users themselves stating what activities they would like to take part in. Weekly discussion forums & evaluations take place which allows Social Eyes to include activities into the timetable that are current, popular & in demand. With the successful fundraising and kind donations Social Eyes day service are now the proud owners of two mini buses that complement the service and also allows the service users to get out and about in the local and wider community (the dream of owning minibuses was never included in the vision but has proved invaluable).
Social Eyes are proud of their service and their achievements to date. Before lockdown commenced, they had a thriving six-day provision, in bases all over the Rotherham Borough. They operate from bases in Rawmarsh, Swinton, Bolton on Dearne, Bramley & Wickersley. The provision includes animal care and swimming at Wathwood Hospital; their own rock band called The Banned; a performance group ‘The Show Offs’; a Championship League winning football team who won promotion in early March and their very own flagship Social Stop Café serving the local community in Wickersley. These are just a few examples from the action-packed timetable that is on offer.
Throughout the pandemic the Green Team have continued to visit [socially distanced, of course] the service users at their homes on a weekly basis taking craft packs and offering help and advice. There have been videos aimed at keeping everyone healthy and also challenge videos set by Faye on a weekly basis.
All the activities are photographed and appear on their own website https://socialeyesrotherham.co.uk/daily-blog/ so that everyone can watch the Green Team in action, [ nothing is hidden here].
So, on this fourth birthday, it is fantastic to reflect and see how the dream of opening and running an alternative day service provision has become a reality. Four years of amazing memories (with only a few lows here and there). Four years of meeting new people, making new friends, being welcomed into communities and achieving so much individually and as a team.
Social Eyes is a special day service provision and without the support of so many this journey would not have been possible. However, as they celebrate their fourth birthday in unexpected Lockdown Faye and Claire would like to give a big shout out to all the staff who make the Green Team so fantastic, the amazing parents & carers forum – Social Ears – who help guide the service in the right direction, raise lots of money to enhance the activities they can offer and continue to wave the Green flag proudly wherever they go. Another big shout out to Wathwood Hospital and their team, who from day one supported them, allowing them to integrate into their service and supported our many initiatives; Asset Alliance Group who sponsor us frequently which helps to strengthen the service. A great big thank you to the kind people who helped the service in their ‘hour of need’ when their mini bus was stolen in November 2019, you know who you are!! Colin & Margaret who work tirelessly on our social media coverage and offer support whenever it is needed.
However, most importantly a huge thank you to all our wonderful service users, who are a talented, driven and courageous group of special people…. You all make Social Eyes the success it has been.
These current times have been very demanding (and still are) but Social Eyes will continue to do all it can to support its service users and slowly and safely move back to more normal and familiar times. The hope is to restart an outdoor service from next Wednesday using the Stubbin football pitch which is kindly being loaned by Rawmarsh St Josephs FC. Social distancing rules will be strictly adhered to, but at least they get to see their friends [ albeit three metres] and the phone bills will hopefully go down.
Here’s to the next 4 years (hopefully pandemic free).
Claire Hobson stated, “I am so immensely proud of the journey Social Eyes has taken. I have experienced every emotion while managing the service in the four very quick and fun filled years. We continue to learn, strive for new opportunities for all our service users and without doubt I know I have the best job in the world!!! Onwards & upwards, the Green Team.
Faye Ibberson stated, “Truly the most amazing four years and I am so grateful for meeting Claire and starting this journey together. I am immensely proud of the service, we have fantastic, talented and dedicated staff and amazing service users who make us all jump out of bed and skip into work! Here’s to many more green years of laughter, fun and memory making.
When the parents or carers were asked for their thoughts on the Social Eyes provision this is what they had to say.
Lorraine C: I would like to say a massive thank you from myself and Richard for all the support you have given us every week, we both look forward to seeing our Social Eyes ‘Buddy’ every Wednesday and Richard loves his activity pack you bring him each time you come. Your services have been a lifesaver before the lockdown and all the way through it. Richard is a very lucky young man to have such a lot of support and wonderful friends and he can’t wait to get back to Social Eyes to see all his friends again. Once again thank you everyone.
Paul C: Lorraine, I feel confident in saying that your thoughts are echoed by everyone. The reason our sons/daughters/wards enjoy going to Social Eyes so much is because the staff are all so brilliant. It is not a job for them, they are passionate about each & every service user and it shows through very clearly.
Janet W: And the same message goes out for me with Claire she loves everything about Social Eyes.
Sue M: We agree Martin always says Social Eyes is his second family, he loves it.
Jane H: Laura absolutely loves Social Eyes. Anybody who knows her would know she is so bubbly but when the announcement came about lockdown she was like a different person. Laura’s not been very happy since the end of March. The visits she has had each week from her staff ‘Buddy’ were really helpful, it was that continued connection with Social Eyes she needed. When she found out she will be starting back next week we had a touch of the usual ‘happy Laura’ with some cheeky comments to the staff. So hopefully Laura’s back!!
Teresa L: Cheryl is missing her friends and staff alike. She looks forward to the weekly visits. We all think Green Team are amazing.
Kate M: Oliver has been so happy since he first went to Social Eyes last June. He has found the lockdown quite frustrating, wanting to know when it will all be over but that’s anyone’s guess! The weekly visits have been much appreciated and have enabled Oliver to maintain contact with his friends and the wonderful staff. I cannot recommend Social Eyes highly enough. The care given to Oliver has been highly professional, individually adapted and it is obvious that the staff are totally devoted to the people in their care. A special word for Claire who is always available to talk and support wherever necessary. We are now looking forward to a gradual return to normality with the sessions beginning next week. Oliver can’t wait.
Janet M: Rachael’s experience of this terrible virus is that before lockdown she was a very busy young lady going to Social Eyes six days and Sunday early morning breakfast at Wathwood, so busy lady. We were very apprehensive at the beginning but Rachael has coped very well. We went walking every day and enjoyed doing the exercises set by Ryan and Jack; we are so grateful for the fantastic support from the Green team and we look forward to our ‘Buddy’ Chelsea’s visits with the craft packs. It’s been so nice to have had their support and Rachael is looking forward to getting back to normal and reconnecting with all her wonderful friends and seeing all the amazing staff team.
So, here’s to the next few years. We have come through this pandemic safely and hopefully it will remain so, if we all remember the new rules. It has been a trying, thought provoking time for everyone, but we have stayed safe and will continue to stay safe. Fate dealt our service users with conditions for which there is no reason, but hopefully, fate will now deal them the chance to reconnect with their friends and allow the resumption of their happy, fulfilled days at Social Eyes.
HAPPY FOURTH BIRTHDAY TO EVERYONE WHO ARE PART OF THE SOCIAL EYES VISION.
And not forgetting the great Green Team who help Social Eyes service users fly high: Karen Doane (shop floor leader), Mathew Wall, Chelsea Jubb, Richard Waddington, Rachel Challinor, Sue Turner, Dawn Ibbeson, Heather Lambert, Jo Dallamore, Melissa Brooks, Debra Swales, Ryan Doane, Linda Dryden, Chilette Bellamy, Jack Larissey, Tracey Marsden, Yvonne Wright, Ellie Davies.