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Visiting Pembroke House: Lunch Clubs and Well-being

It is impossible to overstate the number of activities that taken place in Pembroke House, the social action centre in Walworth, South London.

`Started in 1885 with the vision of creating a ‘settlement’, where living locally, learning, and receiving are all as important as giving and serving, Pembroke House is now a hive of activity with connections to numerous other community organisations providing services from music-making to mental health support. Tatum Street, where Pembroke House is based, is quiet in the middle of a work day.  One might be quite surprised, therefore, to enter the building and discover a bustling office and a community centre where an energetic ‘dancercise’ class is taking place for older visitors. A crowd begins to form in anticipation of the Thursday lunch club – a simple idea with a big impact on tackling loneliness and isolation among elderly members of the community.  This week’s lunch club was particularly special, as the entire year 2 group from Surrey Square School served soup they’d made at school, with an accompanying song about how to make it. The lunch club is just one of the weekly activities; everything from performing arts and social skills for young people to a choir for adults affected by homelessness uses the space at Pembroke House.  There are groups for parents and toddlers, a garden for wellbeing, and free after-school sessions to help young people in Walworth reach university.  There are extras too, like a trip to the Imperial War Museum and a street party.

Pembroke House, dance, dancercise Dance class!

IMG_5854 small Enjoying a song about how to make tomato soup

IMG_5869 small The soup pots decorated by Surrey Square students

IMG_5837 small The Surrey Square students; chefs and singers for the day

SLAM and mental health

Much of the work done at Pembroke House relates to well-being an mental health.  Marcela works at both Pembroke House and SLAM, the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, which dates back to the foundation of Bethlem Royal Hospital in 1247 – the oldest psychiatric institution in the world. SLAM provides NHS care and treatment for people with mental health problems. 

In Southwark IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) they work primarily with people suffering from depression and anxiety, and use talking therapies to help them. Marcela has two parts to her job.  Her first ‘hat’ is community coordinator, and this is why she is based in Pembroke House.  The House is based in an incredibly deprived area, with huge health discrepancies between different parts of the borough, and the people there are less likely to seek help.  Through Pembroke House Marcela is able to directly reach out to communities, and build links with other local organisations.  This area also has the largest African and Latin American populations in the UK, and trying to get to know these groups and provide targeted help and support is a key part of Marcela’s work. 

The project recognises that there are different barriers for these communities to access mental health services appropriately and it is trying to find new and unique ways of addressing them.  The second part of Marcela’s job involves working with clinicians to emphasise the importance of access to community resources for improving wellbeing.  The hope is that accessing community resource will help reduce isolation.  Being a member of staff at both organisations allows Marcela to understand both the SLAM service and the local community. As a job it’s unique, but so is Pembroke House!

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