It’s party time

Well it’s 5th birthday celebrations up at Social Eyes Rotherham. We had hoped that we could have a huge birthday party after missing out last year due to the Covid-19, but it still wasn’t to be. Restrictions meant we had to celebrate again, socially distanced, with chip butties and fruit dessert and buns, followed by party games for all. Hopefully next year we can have our two year delayed party, as we never miss the chance to party at Social Eyes!!

Here’s a reminder of how it all started and what we provide on a daily basis for the service users, some who have been here right from the beginning five years ago. Finally, down at the end of the history, some comments from parents/carers/guardians of the service users with a few photos, past and present, thrown in the mix for good measure.

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. The numbers grew steadily and they spent their days getting out and about in their cars and supporting the 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 operated 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 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 so that everyone can watch the Green Team in action, [ nothing is hidden here].

So, on this fifth birthday, it is fantastic to reflect and see how the dream of opening and running an alternative day service provision has become a reality.  Five years of amazing memories (with only a few lows here and there).  Five 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 fifth birthday in semi-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!! 

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.

Here’s to the next 5 years (hopefully pandemic free).

From the joint owners of Social Eyes: Claire Hobson said, “I am so immensely proud of the journey Social Eyes has taken. I have experienced every emotion while managing the service in the five 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 said, “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.

And finally, from the wonderful, patient, loving parents/carers/guardians of Social Eyes service users, some of those users have been here since the beginning.

Paul Capewell: every parent, guardian, member of staff should be proud of themselves and the care they give to their nearest & dearest or to those that attend Social Eyes. There are difficult days but there are so many, many more great days filled with fantastic memories and individual achievements. Well done one and all.

Kate Moran: Totally agree. Happy Birthday Social Eyes and congratulations from Kate and Oliver.

Jane: Absolutely. Good job everyone. We’ve all been through a tough year, but hopefully things are back on track! Have a lovely day celebrating Happy Birthday Social Eyes.

Lorraine Cain: Have a lovely birthday celebration today everyone.

Linda Durham: Happy birthday have a lovely day.

Michael Iowe: Happy birthday to everyone connected with Social Eyes.

Karen: Happy birthday. Everyone enjoy the day.

Debs: Have a wonderful day.

Janet Rigden: Happy 5th birthday social eyes and a very big thank you for making the last 5 years fantastic, we have all shared wonderful memories together and we are so glad to have met some amazing friends along the journey. Have a brilliant day.

Janet Wise: Happy birthday Social Eyes.

Ann Bayes: Happy birthday thanks for all the hard work you have put in.

Sam’s mum: Happy Birthday Social Eyes!  A truly great team and fantastic management. Always listening and adapting to clients’ and carers’ needs or requests whenever possible.  Thanks so much.

Mavis Reed: Happy birthday to all at Social Eyes.

Amanda Burrows: Wow, never known our Ben to help me do garden, but it’s all down to the Green Team as I know he helps doing their garden on a Tuesday. Thank you the Green Team.

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