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The SHELLS SOS ‘bus, which provides a valuable support service to vulnerable people across Tendring, has been named the regional winner in the category of Health Equalities Award for the NHS Parliamentary Awards 2022, after being nominated by Giles Watling MP.

SHELLS (Shelter and Health Enlisting Local Support) is a partnership of local organisations offering help to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, are street drinkers or drug users or in need of guidance and signposting with issues including housing, domestic abuse, debt and mental health.

The annual national NHS Parliamentary Awards aim to celebrate the outstanding contributions of those people and organisations who support their communities’ physical and mental wellbeing, and this year there were more than 700 nominations submitted nationally. The Health Equalities Award category recognises those projects which are successfully reducing health inequalities and preventing ill health in the community.

Piloted at the end of 2020 in Clacton and successfully extended to Harwich, in its first year the SHELLS SOS ‘bus enabled more than 650 people to get help from on-board experts during once-weekly visits to the towns, with representatives from organisations including Open Road, Community Voluntary Services Tendring, Essex Partnership University NHS Trust (EPUT), SUMMIT Services, Mid and North East Essex Mind, Phoenix Horizons, Anglia Care Trust, Tendring District Council and Harwich Community Services.

The findings of a recent survey found that 100% of those accessing the ‘bus wouldn’t have got the support they needed without the ‘bus, as they didn’t know how to get the help they needed. The project has been so successful it has now been extended to operate until at least 2025.

As a regional winner the SHELLS SOS ‘bus has now been shortlisted for a national recognition award and will learn the outcome later in the year.

Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive, NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Those affected by homelessness or who are living with drug and alcohol issues represent some of the most vulnerable members of our community. They can find it especially challenging to access services that will give them the best chances of boosting their lives, health and wellbeing.

“The SHELLS SOS ‘bus is a fantastic example of our local organisations working together, and I’m especially proud that Tendring and north east Essex are leading the way on coming up with great ideas that are making a big difference to people’s lives.

“I’d like to thank everyone who is part of this project for all their excellent work and Giles Watling MP for taking the time to give recognition to those who are doing their best for the people of Tendring.”

Giles Watling, MP for Clacton, said: “I am delighted that the SHELLS SOS bus won the regional Health Equalities award. They undertake really crucial work in supporting some of the most vulnerable in our society, and I think it’s fair to say they have saved many, many lives in the process.

“They are a leading example of this kind of service and they are helping to showcase the excellent and committed volunteers we have here in Tendring. Each and every person involved can be proud of their achievements, and this award helps ratify what we all know about their tenacity to help people.”

Sarah Wright, CEO of Open Road, said: “I am delighted that the Open Road SOS Bus SHELLS project has been nominated for a regional award in the Health Equalities for the NHS Parliamentary Awards 2022 and would like to thank our commissioners and Giles Watling MP for all the support this exciting project has received.

“The Open Road SOS Bus also works in Colchester and Chelmsford with the night-time economy reducing A & E admissions and Ambulance call outs. The success of the SHELLS partnership project has also attracted additional funding to deliver a similar service across other parts of Essex.”

Sharon Alexander, chief officer CVS Tendring, says: "CVST are delighted to be part of such an exciting collaboration that truly brings voluntary and statutory sector partners to make a difference to our local community."

Cllr Lynda McWilliams, Tendring District Council Cabinet Member for Partnerships, said: “Working together in this way recognises that people who need support often have complex issues which no one organisation can help with. This project demonstrates the real, positive impact on people’s lives that working together can have.”