Healing Hands To Help Those Most In Need

It’s sad that often the people most in need of therapy in one form or another are the least able to afford it. In Bristol, help is at hand in the form of Community Conscious — a non-profit organisation linked with Wellbeing

Therapy Rooms at Hamilton House in Stokes Croft.

It was set up by Nealey Conquest to offer a holistic health service to high-need groups at a subsidised cost. A holistic massage therapist who practices at the Wellbeing Rooms, Nealey was moved to set up the project after a stint

working for the Healing Hands Network in Bosnia. Post civil war, the charity offered a free clinic in Sarajevo for people who had experienced post-traumatic stress.

Nealey explained: “I saw the benefits — people were appreciating touch, the chance to be spoken to like a human being and to have that attention. “So I wanted to practice in a humanitarian way and to extend complementary therapy out to people in need regardless of their background, so that was the starting point, then I came to Bristol at the end of 2009. “I had been practising in the Wellbeing Rooms and there was naturally a gap on Mondays and Sundays. We agreed that was the time to set up a project that would fit with the vision of Hamilton House to outreach into the community with complementary therapy and I really wanted to take that on.”

To that end, Nealey has organised herself and fellow therapists to offer massage, reiki, shiatsu, crystal healing, reflexology and counselling at a cheap rate of £25 per hour to disadvantaged people, their support workers

and to unpaid carers. “This is something we can sustain,” said Nealey, “but sustaining a low-cost service at £10 or £15 an hour would be our eventual aim, which is why we are looking for other funding streams.”

In October 2012, Community Conscious secured a £4,000 grant from Lloyds’ start- up learning programme for social entrepreneurs. This has paid for a pilot project in April with mental health charity Second Step for six weeks, during which time 14 service users and their support workers were able to choose one or two kinds of therapy to suit them.

Nealey explains: “The pilot was subsidised so people paid £10 for an hour’s session, which is very low. The rest of the funding from Lloyds will fund a second pilot in September with Second Step, but with different individuals.

“The feedback is that 99 per cent of people were satisfied with the service we provided so there is an overwhelming evidence from them that they want this to continue and Second Step is still keen to work with us.

“We want the aftercare to continue, too, because so much of complementary therapy is about the relationship with the client and their ongoing ability to look after themselves and how you enable them to do that over time. “So we are trialling a yoga class fortnightly specially for the group who came through the first pilot, but we found the support workers wanted to bring other clients, so it is evolving to include other partner organisations.

“Other streams of funding that we are working towards include getting organisations to commission us, and we are doing a six-month pilot with some adults with learning difficulties through Bristol City Council and Rethink mental health charity has invited us to do taster sessions at its carers’ day. We’re also hoping to offer a business clinic, where therapists go around to offices and either individual pay, or perhaps their company does. These professional rates can be a way of subsidising the service for vulnerable adults.”