SPARC during lockdown

Here at SPARC, it is our mission to create a non-judgemental, confidence building space for individuals that encourages them to make decisions and stand on their own. We operate on a small team of 16 staff members and volunteer workers who assist in running the centre. 

Like so many other charities and organisations during COVID, SPARC had to close its doors to members in March of last year due to lockdown restrictions, and the doors remained closed throughout much of the year. However, we are proud to say that despite these difficult times, we never stopped providing the much-needed support that our members have come to expect from us. Even in the initial stages of lockdown in April, members were able to access vital support via the continuation of our counselling service and regular welfare calls. Whether from home or from the main SPARC office, staff made frequent calls to members not just to ensure that they were coping and able to access the services that they needed, but also to provide them with that essential social support that so many of them were missing out on this year.

By adapting so quickly to the new restrictions that are now second nature of all of us, SPARC was able to find new and intuitive ways to provide the person-centred service that is central to our ethos, even in the most challenging year that the centre has faced to date. Through moving to online resources such as Zoom, we have been able to provide members with a variety of activities to maintain their sense of social support and networks. This includes online group therapy workshops; art groups; a social football group; and our new youth group. These new technologies have also allowed us to continue our management committee meetings – conducting them online for the first time ever, so we can make the best and biggest decisions in the most effective way.

In line with social distancing and following restrictions, we have also been able to provide members with a wide variety of outdoor activities this year as the Rule of Six came into place – extending opportunities for peer support even further, and in-between full lockdowns, staff have been able to offer face-to-face appointments both in the community and at the centre where possible. More recently, we have been fortunate enough to re-open our doors in May to begin holding groups inside the centre. These adhere to the Rule of Six, thus are appointment-only, and run alongside our outdoor groups such as Tai Chi and Social & Therapeutic Horticulture (Gardening Group). Throughout the various lockdowns, our counselling service and our suicide survivor project, Man About a Dog, have continued to support members however possible, adhering to even the strictest social distancing rules but continuing to provide invaluable support to our members especially in times of crisis this year.

Every step of the way, SPARC has complied with lockdown restrictions and has applied the strictest possible adherence whilst remaining flexible throughout in order to provide the best service to its members. Our person-centred approach to enablement and support has remained at the forefront of our minds throughout this difficult period, and we remain committed to finding new and intuitive ways to offer the best possible support to our members within the current lockdown restrictions.

In our 2020/2021 Evaluative Report, we found: 

A total of 353 individuals engaged with SPARC and its related activities during 2020/2021.

We provided a total of 3,375 activities.

325 members have accessed telephone support, and 130 have received face-to-face support.

Our counselling service has provided 377 therapy workshops via Zoom.

160 survivors were contacted by our suicide survivor project, Man about a Dog.

Our new youth project, SPARC4Youth has hosted 34 sessions.