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GP-led team helping to support the homeless in Wrexham wins gong

A GP who is behind the launch of a multi-agency community hub helping to transform the lives of homeless and vulnerable people in Wrexham has landed a prestigious award.

Dr Karen Sankey founded the Wrexham Community Care Collaborative alongside Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) mental health manager Dewi Richards and Tanya Jones from homeless charity The Wallich in June 2016.

They brought together a host of health and welfare specialists to deliver a new “person-centred” care model to help members of the homeless community in Wrexham in crisis.

Among its many achievements has been the launch of the Wrexham Community Care Hub at The Salvation Army in Wrexham which provides a one-stop shop for homeless people and rough sleepers in the town, helping them to access a broad range of services including housing, mental health and substance misuse support, GPs and financial help.

The hub, which brings together volunteers from The Salvation Army, the Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham (AVOW) and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, operates an open door policy, welcoming on average 60 homeless and vulnerable people every week during its Friday morning sessions.

Dr Sankey and her team are now replicating the model in other Wrexham communities to cater for the social, emotional and medical needs of residents with a stronger focus on prevention.

She has now been presented with The Police and Crime Commissioner’s Partnership Award at North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones’ annual Community Awards for her work establishing the Wrexham Community Care Collaborative.

The 51-year-old, who worked as a GP in Wrexham for more than 25 years, accepted her award at a glittering ceremony at Theatr Clwyd in Mold.

She said: “I’m completely delighted. It’s all down to the hard work of so many people.

“The Community Care Collaborative is a Community Interest Company I founded with the purpose of developing and implementing new models of health and wellbeing in the community.

“We oversee the running of the Community Care Hub the weekly drop in service for homeless and rough sleepers in partnership with the Salvation Army. It was the Community Care Hub that was founded by myself, Dewi and Tanya. Dewi has now joined the CCC as our Service Director

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“We are in the process of taking over three GP surgeries in Wrexham, the first of which is Hillcrest where we have over 120 individuals registered who are street homeless, rough sleeping or in vulnerable housing situations.”

“We’ve created a magical and safe environment. We’ve broken down the judgement of this particular group of people who are marginalised in society. It’s a welcoming place and it’s really making a difference.

“It’s fabulous to get recognition for the work we are doing. The success of this service is down to the people who work in the hub every Friday. We have a shared vision and purpose to make a difference to the people who need our help the most.”

“We provide people with both practical and emotional help, including providing temporary accommodation – the council have currently withdrawn from the service so we are struggling to access accommodation – as well as helping to manage addiction and mental health problems.”

Due to their chaotic and transient lifestyles, the group is particularly hard to reach however since the hub has launched, many have engaged with professional support for the first time since becoming homeless.

Bringing multiple agencies together in the one place has provided a more co-ordinated and resource efficient approach to supporting and caring for exceptionally vulnerable people.

Dr Sankey added: “Initially, we felt this group were struggling to access mental health and GP services and so we decided to start offering these services.

“We have an open door policy with no criteria to meet at all. It’s a very welcoming and friendly space where people can access help. We see rough sleepers, people with addiction problems, people with severe mental health difficulties and the homeless.”

The Police and Crime Commissioner’s Partnership Award is a group award recognising organisations which have successfully worked in partnership with each other to support the most vulnerable in society, contribute to community safety and help to reduce crime.

With growing levels of homelessness across the UK, the Police and Crime felt the Community Care Collaborative was an excellent example of coordinated and effective partnership working at a community level.

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