This innovative approach to meeting local need was sparked by research into the experience of bereaved men by clinical nurse specialist Pauline Hatchard – as Shaun Pollard, CEO of Halton Haven, explains: “Pauline’s work showed that bereaved men are very often not interested in the traditional family support offering of formal counselling or listening. The data from our family support team backed this up.
“We researched the idea, originally from Australia, of creating a Men’s Shed where men could feel at home, work on projects of their own choosing at their own pace. A place of leisure where men come together to work.
“The relationships which men can build, in a way that is natural for them, can have huge health benefits and meet the unanswered needs which bereavement brings.”
The Men’s Shed is part of the hospice’s new family support centre, built with funding from the latest round of capital grants for hospices from the Department of Health. The local CCG in Halton have also been collaborating with the hospice, and are part-funding this new venture.
‘An approach to men’s welfare’
“Shed” might seem a misnomer since it is actually one half of the new building. But Men’s Sheds are a concept and an approach to men’s welfare rather than a physical description.
Once you go inside, the shed concept becomes more apparent with a range of tools and workbenches. Other facilities include computers and a kitchen for those who want to learn to cook, and there is the opportunity to learn photography or develop gardening skills.
As the project develops, the hospice plans to introduce other activities such as painting, model making and researching family history and it hopes that within a couple of years it can open a shop to sell the items which the men have either grown or made.
However, it’s absolutely fine if all a man wants to do is sit and have a cup of tea with his new mates. The activities which take place will be led by the men. They have already, for example, decided that one thing they don’t want is a TV. They can watch all the TV they care to at home. The shed is for doing and being.
The project is for men of any age and has one simple criterion: they must be bereaved or soon to be bereaved.
The project is 12 weeks old and initially the hospice approached men known to the hospice through the family support service or day hospice and the attraction was immediate – the first 25 phone calls brought 15 recruits.
The hospice is also working with the local Borough Council and Housing Trust to see if any of their service users fit the criterion and may benefit from the opportunity to get involved. The aim is to build membership in a focussed, manageable way – blanket advertising might overwhelm the service.
Allan Kellehear, Professor of Community Health, School of Health and Education, Middlesex University will be leading on an academic evaluation of the project as it develops.