An Eating Disorders Self Help group was established in 1996. No specialist services existed in the area at that time. Certainly vital help at the early stages of the illness was not available nor was there support for carers. With a grant of £200 and support from Bassetlaw Self-Help Link a former sufferer worked to establish a self-help group for anyone whose life was affected by an eating disorder, carer, sufferer, family member or friend. A member of the group chose the name FREED; she described her illness as like being in a cage with a locked door and she needed the key to be FREED. In October 1996 it was decided to hold an awareness evening, doctors and teachers were sent invitations and an advert was placed in the local newspaper. The evening was attended by around 60 people, and highlighted the lack of services, 2 people from Mansfield child and family therapy service performed a role play about eating disorders, which was very poignant for families who were going through this. After the meeting anyone interested in being part of the self help group were invited to stay behind, there were 7 people, 4 of whom are still actively involved with FREED as Trustees.
FREED Self-help group became registered with the then Eating Disorders Association (EDA) which provided training and required certain standards to be met including having regular supervision. (FREED’s self help group still meets and is still a part of the EDA now called B-eat self help network, and FREED Beeches service has recently achieved B-eat’s Assured Standards Award.)
The members of FREED felt strongly that sufferers needed more than a fortnightly self help group; people were at different stages of their illnesses and needed specialist in-put. In order to provide this service FREED decided to seek charitable status which was granted in Jan. 2002. Its management committee was primarily made up of carers (four of whom were original members), with representation from sufferers who attended the self-help group, along with a number of interested healthcare professionals and others working in the field of alternative and complementary treatments. FREED had much support at this time from Dr Phil Foster, Dr.Justin Schlikt, Vera Todorovic (Manager of Bassetlaw Dietetic dept.) and Karon Glynn.
In 1998 a Trent Travel Award enabled a member of FREED, along with Justin Schlikt and Vera Todorovic, to visit specialist centres across the country.
Project visits included places such as:
- St George’s Eating Disorder Unit, based at Springfield Hospital, London, (in-patient & out-patient care);
- Royal Free Hospital (day patient centre)
- Maudsley Institute (family therapy unit)
- The Phoenix Centre, Cambridge, (in-patient unit for adolescents)
- The Juniper Centre, Southampton
- Springfield childrens unit.
Such project visits enabled the group to begin to develop their ideas about what services and support could work for themselves and their members.
FREED members sent out a questionnaire to 150 people with eating disorders to ask what their ideal service would be, from their responses together with FREED’s research, FREED developed their vision.
The above was the original FREED Vision. FREED believed in offering the “right intervention at the right time” FREED believed in addressing the problem early before the person became too ill; they believed in all round support both for the sufferers and for their carers and families. They believed in education for the general public and for GPs.
FREED Trustees estimated that they would need £518,000 over 3 years to run the pilot project based on their vision. They therefore set about raising funds both by having small fundraising events and applying to large trust funds. Bassetlaw Community and Voluntary Service was extremely helpful, Michael Newstead (the then Manager) even loaning his office for interviews with potential funders.
A name was needed for the project and it was decided, as FREED was already established that it should be included in the title of the project,
BEECHES is an acronym for Bringing Education Empowerment, Counselling and Holistic Eating disorder Support, hence FREED Beeches.
On the whole this is the service which FREED now offers, where the arrows are double ended this means that there is contact between FREED and statutory services in these areas. There have been a few changes over the years.
FREED Beeches was initially funded by The Community Fund (now the Big Lottery), The Tudor Trust, Boots Plc, Barclays Bank, Lloyds TSB, Thomas Farr Trust, Lady Hind Trust Newark and Sherwood PCT, Bassetlaw PCT, Mansfield PCT, Ashfield PCT and many individuals who supported our fundraising events. The project was begun in April 2003 and the doors opened in January 2004. Unfortunately 39 Park Street which was due to be ready in September 2003 was still uninhabitable, luckily the ground floor of 13 Queen Street was available and the charity owners (Home Start) very generously allowed us to use it until 39 was ready. We functioned with a mobile phone and 1 computer!
In 2004 the NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) included its recommendations for eating disorders, a Trustee from FREED was invited to give a presentation at the conference, entitled “Carers as drivers for implementation”. FREED’s service fitted perfectly into the recommendations.
The Trustees, Yvonne Round and Yvonne Boughton (the 2 Yvonnes) were awarded the Eating Disorders Association National Award for services to eating disorders.
When the 3 year pilot project proved to be successful, FREED was very lucky to secure Lottery funding for a further 3 years, continuation funding from The Tudor Trust and a substantial amount from the PCTs. It took many presentations, training sessions, attendances at meetings and knocking on doors for FREED to become the service it is today, it has at present 13 Trustees all of whom are volunteers with relevant experience to running the service, including financial, project managing, IT skills, law, teaching, clinicians, ex-service users and carers. The Trustees are very grateful to their members of staff who have made FREED Beeches the welcoming and effective service it is today.
FREED still relies on charitable donations in order to remain autonomous and innovative, but is very grateful to the NHS for the funding it provides.