A Salford organisation with a wide range of services has been helping people through some of their toughest times during the pandemic.
CSIN (Community Social Inclusion Network) launched in 2015 and focuses on education as a way to tackle and prevent serious issues, covering everything from mental health and homelessness to special needs education and dementia, as well as running BTEC courses and two radio stations.
CSIN’s founder, Joe Barnwell said: “I started it with 37 pence in my kitchen and now I’ve got 21 employees across two sites and we work with some of the hardest to reach people in Salford.
“We’ve got a brilliant track record, and we’re continuing to grow so hopefully in the next five years we’ll be even bigger. One of our big problems now is tackling publicity and letting people know we’re there for them. We’ve never really embraced publicity because we’ve never had to, we’ve always been able to find the people who need us.”
As part of their work with substance abuse and homelessness, the team even took to the streets last year to further educate themselves.
Joe said: “To get the understanding you won’t get anywhere else, we went to live amongst them for three months in the summer, the drug users, the homeless people.
“It came about as somebody who was using drugs said to me, ‘you have no idea what the craving’s like, why we need it’ so I thought well that’s go find out, so I went out every night until I got enough information and understood a lot more about it.
“You can get lots of information from books but go and sit down in the doorway with someone and spend the evening listening to their story, and only then, do you really know what you need to do to change things, because it’s not all about throwing money at it, it’s a whole community thing.”
Joe added: “When you start to attack the immediate issues that affect their everyday life, the one thing you’re left with is a very poor educational background. Without education you can’t move forward, so you have to start saying ‘right let’s get some skills into you’, and it’s really refreshing to see the change in these people when they realise that they can actually do something.”
As part of their educational focus, CSIN host a range of mental health courses all year around, and their latest set of PTSD/Trauma and Depression/Anxiety courses started last week.
Both online courses involve 10 hours across five weeks, with PTSD/Trauma taking place on Tuesdays at 11:30am and Anxiety/Depression on Thursdays at 11:30am.
Joe said: “There are very different kinds of PTSD and it’s enabling people to recognise them, understand how it’s affecting them and the tools that PTSD can be fought with. PTSD is something which comes from trauma, so the key is how to recognise trauma in the first place and handle it, and we take them through different strategies and techniques to do that.
“For stress and anxiety, we do interactive exercises with them so they can understand what stress and anxiety is, what causes it, and where depression kicks in on the scale.
“What was a small issue when we were in a normal phase is massive when you’re suddenly in lockdown so there’s lots of stuff on that, and we do offer the support through both courses where they can contact us night or day through the messaging service.”
Later in the year, CSIN will also be holding courses on substance abuse, another issue they believe the pandemic has worsened.
“What we’re finding now is that as we’re going through this Covid crisis, mental health problems are unbelievably high, and people are finding it easier to self-medicate than face the actual issues, and the key to it all is education, and that’s what we do, we educate.”
As well as providing these adult courses from their base at Swinton Community Gatehouse, CSIN also provide alternative education for younger people at a location in Eccles.
CSIN say that although the pandemic has made their outreach work even more vital across all of Salford, this is particularly the case for their youth work.
Joe said: “We’re out visiting some of these young kids who can’t leave the house. A lot of them are living in poverty, there isn’t IT equipment and IT support there, so we go to the house, we take equipment, work, food when it’s required and we keep in touch with them, doing daily welfare checks, because these are some of the hardest to reach young people in Salford and the longer they’re away from school and education, the harder it is to get them back so we need to be out there everyday really.”
CSIN hope to expand their extensive work in future, with plans including a possible third site, however they need more volunteers.
“People think when they’re volunteering they just use this magic sticky plaster, changing someone’s life with a cup of tea and a cake, but it doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to be a good listener, you’ve got to be there when that person needs you to talk to, and you’ve got to be able to turn around and say ‘have you thought about doing this’ and work with them that way.”