Chums – Our EO Story

Chums – Our EO Story

Our shared history CHUMS started as a voluntary service supporting bereaved children, young people and their families in 1997. In 2000, part funding was provided by Macmillan for 3 years to offer a countywide bereavement service, with the remainder being funded by the NHS. However, in 2011 CHUMS ‘spun out’ of the NHS to become a social enterprise, community interest company (CIC), enabling development and growth to become the service it is today. From this point on we began our journey as an employee owned organisation.

CHUMS provides mental health and emotional wellbeing support for children, young people and their families, with other services specifically supporting adults; Baby Loss Bereavement Service and Bedfordshire Suicide Bereavement Service. Our headquarters are based in Bedfordshire and we currently employ 89 staff.

In all areas of the service, our aim is to support service users who are experiencing difficulty and distress with sensitivity and understanding. CHUMS prides itself on accessibility to the communities it serves, working flexibly and striving to remove any barriers to client access, whether these be physical, psychological, or related to language or culture. CHUMS use evidence-based treatments to provide effective care for those we support. The CHUMS values align with the person-centred values at the heart of trauma-informed care.

Our Values
Accessible – Creates tailor made support giving children and young people choice
Compassionate – Humanity and warmth delivered by a committed and dedicated team
Effective – Improving outcomes by offering high quality evidence based support

When the initial lockdown was announced at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, CHUMS responded quickly and effectively. All staff were provided with equipment to work from home, ensuring our clients continued to receive support with minimal disruption. Our group and workshop programmes were creatively modified for virtual delivery and staff were trained on safe and effective use of the virtual delivery platforms.

Where families have struggled to access virtual sessions due to lack of equipment and/or no internet provision, we have been able to work with our CHUMS Charity colleagues to provide laptops or tablets. This even extended to our ENCORE Music programme who were able to provide free musical instruments for children to participate at home. Our Young Carers Service worked closely with a local Church to provide local vulnerable families with food boxes donated by supermarkets.

Our amazing volunteers received a certificate from the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire acknowledging their support and commitment across a number of CHUMS services. During the pandemic volunteers have been involved in the following:

Bereavement Support Phone calls have been made by 12 bereavement trained volunteers, who made a total of 106 phone calls to bereaved families.

Young Carers’ Wellbeing phone calls have been made over several months, with follow-up reports sent to CHUMS staff. A total of 223 calls were made, which includes some attempted contact calls.

Deliveries of Easter eggs, Rubik’s Cubes, ukuleles and more recently food parcels were also delivered to Young Carers’ families by our volunteers.

One volunteer has been researching benefits and funeral costs for the Bedfordshire Suicide Bereavement Service team. They have produced vital and sensitive information that can be shared with recently bereaved families.

Our CHUMS Fundraising team have received support from 18 volunteers at three different events; Open Air Cinema in Barton, White Hart Pub in Ampthill and Santa’s Float in Ampthill.

Diane Barnes, Kerry Day & Richard Luscombe also personally received a certificate for their excellent work with Bedfordshire Suicide Bereavement Service. They have conducted monthly drop-in support groups for adults bereaved through suicide. They have been running these groups for several years now and they have adapted the support to a virtual service during this pandemic.

Our children, young people and families at CHUMS are very fortunate to have such a dedicated and committed team of volunteers.

Our passionate and committed team have made all of the above possible and shown tremendous resilience throughout the extended lockdown periods.

We recognised quite early in the pandemic the impact on our employees who were trying to juggle the demands of family life, home schooling, working from home and increased levels of anxiety about their own physical, emotional and mental health, in addition to supporting family members who were self-isolating.

An energetic group of employees came forward and created our Wellbeing Group in July 2020. This group meets monthly to plan activities and consists of representatives from across HR, clinical and administrative teams. Without a doubt, they have made a difference:-

Wellbeing Group achievements:

  • Introduced Agile Working Policy from March 2020 to help staff juggle home and work commitments and maintain a healthy work/life balance.
  • Dedicated bi-monthly newsletter at the start of January 2021 when it became apparent there was another lengthy lockdown.
  • Encouraging staff to use BUPA Healthy Minds (counselling support including family members). https://www.bupa.co.uk/eaponline
  • Introduced a Wellness Action Plan (based on a model from MIND) encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their emotional and physical wellbeing. This helps managers to support individuals during supervision as part of a shared discussion.
  • Virtual lunchtime natters – informal social get together, themed around events, e.g Mental Health Awareness Week, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, the Queen’s Birthday, celebrating easing of restrictions. Also included national Time to Talk Day (February 2021).
  • Weekly mindful moments, e.g. tips on meditation, physical exercise, self-care, holding and relieving stress, importance of sleep and hydration, music, healthy recipes.
  • Staff invited to participate in a virtual Christmas Choir in which service users, staff and volunteers recorded a Christmas Song which was played on BBC Three Counties Radio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9RP8noAhrQ
  • Organised Staff Christmas Party virtually with games, quizzes, bingo and a gingerbread sculpture competition – the winning entry below!

  • Introduced a six-monthly staff wellbeing questionnaire. Initially via the Vitality Workplace Wellness Survey template. March 2021.
  • Circulated links for mindfulness apps and fitness apps.
  • Buddy groups meet regularly via Microsoft Teams. New starters join a buddy group during their induction. These groups provide an opportunity for informal get togethers. Each group has representatives from all areas of the organisation.
  • Circulate monthly calendar from Action for Happiness includes mindful tasks, physical activity.
  • Mental Health Awareness Week – we encouraged staff to go for walks and enjoy nature, take photos and shared them with the wider team. Some examples are shared below:

  • We have recently launched a new activity and social group “OFF THE COUCH. The sessions will take place for 12 weeks every Monday via Zoom. “OFF THE COUCH/ACTIVE MIND is a new CHUMS’ Young Carers fun physical activity and social group that offers Young Carers, children and their families an opportunity to exercise and socialise together while doing fun activities. It is completely free and also available to CHUMS staff and their families.
  • In January 2021 we introduced a monthly ACE Award enabling employees to nominate their colleagues for their commitment to bringing our values to life within their roles across the organisation.

Staff Feedback
Staff have appreciated the lunchtime natters, healthy recipes, mindfulness moments, book recommendations and ACE Awards. The Voice Newsletter has also been particularly well received and we continue to adapt and expand the contents following input from employees.