Fay Shanahan is Corporate Director of Operations for whg.
Which part of the region do you work in?
Walsall and across the West Midlands
Which organisation/sector/network are you representing on the Mental Health Commission?
whg – social housing provider
How does your role relate to the mental health agenda?
The fundamental cornerstones to a happy life is good health and a decent and safe home to live in. At whg we understand that the two are intrinsically linked and pride ourselves in working alongside customers and with our partners to create resilient communities and sustainable tenancies.
The impact of the pandemic has given new impetus and focus to recognise and tackle the health inequalities currently impacting our customers and disadvantaged communities. As an anchor organisation in our communities we are quickly able to adapt, leverage our influence, skills and network to attract funding and resource to support customers’ wellbeing.
In 2021 we launched our ambitious health and wellbeing strategy, The H Factor: Health, hope and happiness, which sets our approach to reducing loneliness and isolation; using social prescribing to improve mental health; supporting older customers to age well and live independently and; reduce the impact of poverty on children and families.
What are your particular areas of passion and interest, which you aim to champion through the work of the Commission?
At whg we are passionate about working in partnership to address the wider determinants of health. Focusing on early intervention and prevention rather than treatment, we can support people and our communities to live independently and have active, prosperous and healthy lives
Loneliness and isolation are key public health issues which affect over a third of adults. During the pandemic, our Stay in Stay Safe project to check in on vulnerable customers saw our teams ring thousands of customers and found that almost 2,500 felt lonely or isolated. By engaging with hard-to-reach disadvantaged individuals, Kindness Counts is part of our ongoing work with partner organisations to support the building of resilient communities, reducing health and social inequalities to improve outcomes for our residents. As well as the positive impact on our customers and communities, its preventative approach should help ease the strain on health and social care by reducing the need for acute services further down the line.
What particular knowledge, skills & experience are you particularly seeking to ‘bring to the table’ to help to progress the work of the Commission?
As the largest housing provider in Walsall, we occupy a unique position in our communities, have a strong relationship with our customers and deep understanding of the challenges they face.
Through our range of support services, we have the capability to tackle health inequalities at source and reach some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. We employ whg customers as our champions, people with lived experience who can access their communities in a way no one else can.
We have a strong track record of working in partnership to improve the health and wellbeing of communities. We are proud to be part of Walsall Together, an innovative and effective integrated care partnership that brings together the organisations that plan and deliver health, mental health, social care, housing and voluntary services to improve health and wellbeing outcomes and create resilient communities in Walsall. Our health partners recognise the value in having housing as a key partner around this table, there are huge opportunities to align the work we do with our customers and communities and the desire to tackle health inequalities.