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Informal healthy lifestyle advice and weight-loss support for disabled and vulnerable residents of South Tyneside has been made more accessible by a local charity and support from Port of Tyne Community Action Fund at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

Community charity BLISS=Ability provides vital support and advocacy services for disabled, unemployed and vulnerable residents in South Tyneside, including health and wellbeing courses and activities, IT and digital media training, and volunteering opportunities. A key area of support for the charity is an accessible community facility, offering non-time-limited services for wheelchair users and those with mobility or long-term health issues.

The charity’s ‘Weigh to Go’ service supports wheelchair users and those with mobility issues who may struggle to lose weight due to reduced physical activity. Service users have regular access to an accessible weighing scale and can get information on healthy diets and lifestyle support in a non-clinical and independent setting. The service also fulfils the wider need for social contact and support for those who may have been further isolated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Through the programme BLISS=Ability aims to support 35 clients per year, increasing users’ knowledge and raising awareness about the link between healthier lifestyles and a reduced likelihood of further long-term conditions.

With the support of a grant from the Port of Tyne Community Action Fund and one other community action fund, BLISS=Ability has covered some of the costs of the Weigh to Go programme, including a staff member to manage the use of the accessible scales, room rent and purchase of a laptop. These investments will ensure the continued availability of the accessible weighing scale and enable clients to be weighed regularly, independently and with dignity without having to attend a clinical appointment.

Sharon Bell, Chief Officer at BLISS=Ability commented: “The support from the Community Action Fund has helped us continue to provide our essential ‘Weigh to Go’ service. We have an inclusive and holistic approach committed to enhancing people’s social care, health and well-being by providing customised personal development support, training and activities designed to improve choice, opportunity, and independence to enhance people’s quality of life, and we fully embrace the definition of a disability defined in The Equalities Act 2010.”

Laura Stuart Parks, Head of People at Port of Tyne commented: “BLISS=Ability is a fantastic service for the residents of South Tyneside and we are very proud to have been able to support through the Port of Tyne Community Action Fund. The service itself is crucially important for disabled people and those with mobility issues, but just as important is the wider social contact and support that comes with it for those who may find themselves more isolated. We look forward to hearing how the sessions continue to go!”

The Port of Tyne Community Action Fund was created in 2007 to support community projects in North and South Tyneside with three key aims: to help communities thrive; improve health and wellbeing; and supporting children and young people to thrive. Since its creation, the fund has awarded £500,000 to over 165 community projects along the River Tyne corridor.

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