“A Clubhouse is a safe place that provides a sustainable lifelong support system for people living with mental health conditions.”

June Webb is a Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor who lives in Norwich.  She’s dedicated her career to helping others as a social worker, housing advisor and coach.

Her new venture is setting up the Norfolk Clubhouse, a social enterprise promoting positive life options for adults with mental health issues.

There are over 300 Clubhouses globally offering people with mental illness opportunities for friendship, employment, housing, education and access to medical and psychiatric services in a single caring and safe environment.

This is the story of June and the Norfolk Clubhouse.

(Images from the Mosaic Clubhouse in Brixton)

What is a ‘Clubhouse?’

37F88FEC-6605-4496-9692-00A0835521E8A clubhouse is a community of people who, as members, are involved in the actual running of the clubhouse. It’s a safe place that provides a sustainable lifelong support system for people living with mental health illness. The main benefit of the Clubhouse is to provide a place to belong and return which is sustainable and where people take an active part in running the daily activities.

How does it work?

People will be referred to us and become members of the Clubhouse community. The idea is that you’re helping yourself and growing in confidence and skills, while also helping other people. Our members are involved in the actual running of the Clubhouse which offers opportunities for employment, education, friendship and support.

Members are risk assessed just so they’re not a risk to themselves or others, we’re not going to exclude anybody because they’ve been to prison or been sectioned, we want to help people to move on.

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How did you get involved?

I used to be a social worker in Brighton, I thought it would be great to have somewhere people could come to and not have to leave, somewhere they could go for life. I heard about the Clubhouse model and discovered that the first one was founded in New York in 1948 and I thought this is it! I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. I found that there was one in Brixton, so I got in contact and went for a visit. They’ve been operating since the mid 1990s and it’s a great success so I want to bring it to Norfolk.

Why do you want to set up a Norfolk Clubhouse?

I help people with benefits and a lot of the application forms we go through, the system is geared toward physical ill health. People who have a mental issue have to prove how ill they are, it’s almost impossible to prove that. What does somebody need to look like to look unwell?

The clubhouse model is advertised as a recovery model, but to me, it’s living with what we need to live with, but not being written off. People are entitled to support, it’s not to deny the existence of mental health or devalue it, we don’t write people off because they have type 1 diabetes, sometimes with mental health it feels like you’re being written off.

The people we work with are very creative, lovely people. They have all these possibilities and strengths and gifts and it’s all been overlooked because of this one thing where they have to prove how ill they are to get help. To me, it’s very counter-cultural. 

What is your vision for the Norfolk Clubhouse?

Norfolk Clubhouse aspires to provide a community cafe, community garden and office training life opportunities, then follow up with an additional placement with local employers. Membership is for life.

It’s about saying ‘Yes, you do have certain issues, but what are your strengths? How can we build you up?’ It’s about looking at what you can do, instead of what you can’t do.

I see the Clubhouse as a family. Sometimes a nuclear family doesn’t work and we can create a family of choice within the Clubhouse community.

What help do you need?

It’s a new charity and there’s still a lot of things to learn. There’s just me at the moment, so I need to set up further, I’m the fundraiser, marketer, everything. I’ve got two trustees but would love to get more people on board who have lived experience of it, who may want to volunteer and get involved in a more practical way, someone who feels they can support others.

More information, how to help:

Norfolk Clubhouse Founder June Webb is looking for support. If you are interested in joining as a Trustee, Coach/Mentor or in sharing your professional or personal expertise, or you would just like to find out more,  please get in touch with June via the website here: Norfolk Clubhouse

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