Heather Henry. Image credit: John Houlihan
An entrepreneurial nurse from Sale, Heather Henry, is to feature in a new book by a former chief executive of the NHS.
The book “Health is Made at Home, Hospitals are for Repairs” by Lord Nigel Crisp, a former chief executive at the NHS, describes Heather’s work with fathers in Salford.
‘Dadly Does it’ was a project initiated in 2013 by Salford-based social enterprise Unlimited Potential which has featured on BBC’s The One Show and won many awards.
It all started as an experiment to see whether a group of fathers facing serious problems could help each other to help their children.
Rather than fix the dads’ problems, Heather’s role was to draw out “what was strong, rather than what was wrong” with the men.
The work extended over the next 3 years to two further communities in Salford and Rochdale.
“I made myself deliberately helpless” she said. “I started out humbly asking for their help to run a competition where children wrote in to say why their dad was the best in town.”
At that first meeting in a local cafe, the fathers met as strangers but soon started talking about their suicidal thoughts and realised that they were not alone with their worries.
The men bonded and formed a group called Salford Dadz – Little Hulton. Their first act was to establish a Saturday club for dads and their children to be together.
“After that, I realised as a nurse that all I needed to inject was confidence, not medicines.” Heather adds.
“It’s all their work, not mine.”
An independent evaluation by The University of Salford and Leeds Beckett showed that not only did the dads’ wellbeing improved, but so did their children’s and their partners.
Local authority children’s services were often no longer needed, and changes in the men’s emotional wellbeing startled local GPs.
Now Heather is using her skills to help children with asthma, based on her own childhood experience.
She recently set up a social enterprise called BreathChamps which is all about children and families learning about asthma in fun ways. “Children are part of my team” she says, “I ask them if they’ll help me to look after each other and they always say yes, just like the dads did.”