A PROJECT which helps support people with mental health issues has relaunched with expanded facilities and new services.

Next Steps was set up in 2000 after a research project looked into services for people with mental health problems in Ryedale.

A steering group was formed to answer the identified needs of the research and as a result, the charity was established in order to provide a support service to people with mental health problems and their carers.

In 2006, Next Steps moved to a new centre, Griffin House in Church Street, Norton, which now houses their office base, drop-in and activity centre and coffee shop. Next Steps currently employs a centre manager, Leisa Burniston, a small number of people on permitted work schemes and some volunteers.

Leisa has more than 22 years experience in mental health and social care and has many qualifications and training, including ASSIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy).

She said: "Next Steps Mental Health Resource Centre supports people with mental health problems in Ryedale, by providing a drop-in centre, activities and outreach groups Kirkbymoorside and Pickering.

"We are a user-led organisation and work closely with GPs and the community mental health teams to ensure that people who are affected by mental health issues are supported."

Next Steps now has over 30 volunteers and more than 100 users of the service.

"We provide an array of activities-groups such as art, walking, crafts, men only woodworking/men craft group, bingo, dominoes, out of hours club, IT sessions, training, volunteering opportunities, and gardening," Leisa said.

"Our weekly outreach groups are held in Kirkbymoorside each Wednesday and Pickering each Thursday, which provide a friendly atmosphere and social integration along with various activities."

Next Steps in Norton also hosts a community cafe, which has recently been refurbished, and is open to everyone.

"The cafe is run as a social enterprise and is partly staffed by users on permitted work scheme," Leisa said.

"The permitted work scheme offers work experience to people on long-term benefits and a pathway back into work.

"It builds confidence and self-esteem by allowing people to apply their skills and receive modest payment, which then leads to empowerment and independence. Additionally it gives structure and purpose for people and allows them to access training to further extend their skills.

"Volunteers are also an important part of the cafe and in turn, they benefit in a similar way, gaining self-confidence and the opportunity to build their individual skills.

"We provide home cooked meals, delicious cakes and puddings and a variety of drinks all at a very reasonable cost. We use locally sourced produce where possible and grow our own vegetables at our allotment.

"Our service has built a strong base around the community café – it’s the hub of Next Steps and an innovative way of supporting users."

Earlier this year Next Steps secured a Lottery grant through the Reaching Communities Project, to offer transport to all its projects.

Leisa said: "This is a very exciting step for us and will enable us to provide more pop-ups in rural areas. We will be able to provide transport or pay volunteers to ferry people to which ever service they wish to access or activity they want to attend."

Other new services starting in January include a Thursday group which will offer support and a meal as well as shower and washing facilities and unlimited tea and coffee for £5 or those who are in need. A 'Totally Not Lonely Group' will also meet the last Sunday of every month for a roast dinner with a pudding and transport for £5.

Leisa said: "Our ultimate aim is to develop self-confidence for members, improve their work prospects and access to statutory services, help support positive family relationships and prevent loneliness and isolation."

To enquire about using any of our services or becoming a volunteer contact Leisa on 01653 690854 or Helen Clark to arrange transport on 07422 572738. For more information, go to nextstepsryedale.co.uk