‘Leisure centre is an alternative to crisis centres for the vulnerable’ says Grantham woman

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Sue Harris is on a one-woman mission to improve the lives of vulnerable people in the Grantham community.

Realising the terrible plight faced by people who have lost preventative services as a result of budget cuts, Sue has embarked on what she has termed the ‘Vulnerable Adult Venture’.

Grantham is Great Awards 2012: Sue Harriw and Journal editor Paul Richardson. 821C

Grantham is Great Awards 2012: Sue Harriw and Journal editor Paul Richardson. 821C

And she gave a glimpse into her hopes of transforming the way care is provided for people suffering from mental health conditions and learning disablilities at the Journal’s Grantham is Great Awards on Friday night.

At the awards ceremony, at Belton Woods Hotel, Sue was announced the winner of the Local Hero awards to a huge round of applause.

As she took to the stage to collect her award, she made a beeline for the podium to talk about her work in encouraging vulnerable adults to make use of The Meres Leisure Centre, where she works as swimschool principal.

Sue, 41, told the crowd: “I want to be their voice. I want to change Government policies and the things they are implementing at the moment, and I’m very serious about that.”

Speaking after the awards, Sue told the Journal that she has drawn on personal experience to build a service at The Meres which she believes is a form of preventative care.

Currently, a group of 40 vulnerable adults have joined sessions which allow them to try sports, make new friends and learn social skills. The sessions afford them respite from home and, in turn, their carers respite from looking after them for a few hours. Sue hopes that the stronger the service becomes, the fewer the number of people who will require hospital treatment.

Sue said: “I want more than anything to make this a success. I can’t describe what it would mean to me.”

Ultimately, Sue wants to see money being made available in the NHS budget to allow all leisure centres across the country to provide similar services.

She believes the national suicide rate among people suffering from mental health problems would be severely reduced if such sporting facilities were used as an alternative to crisis centre and counselling sessions.

She said: “There are people sitting at home who don’t know where to turn. There is a stigma attached to crisis centres for people with mental health problems. And they are sad places. But if they come here to the leisure centre, they can get a different kind of help.”

In order to make the ‘Vulnerable Adult Venture’ a success, funding is needed, as is voluntary help from sports coaches and people who wish to serve the community.

Anyone who believes they can help is asked to contact Sue via e-mail at swim.grantham@leisureconnection.co.uk

* See today’s Grantham Journal for more awards coverage.