The Independent Newham Users’ Forum (INUF) is a user-led, mental health charity based in Stratford, London. Their aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of its service users and carers in Newham by providing cycle training and social rides. It is a platform to develop their confidence, skills and increase their fitness levels with the vision that they can then help others who are also going through the recovery process.
INUF were awarded funding from TfL’s Cycling Grants London scheme to support their INUF Rides project. The funding went towards buying ten bikes, three e-bikes, materials and training for staff. The e-bikes are used to cater for participants who are unable to ride without power assistance due to mobility issues. This then gives them the assistance and courage to ride bikes and eventually proceed onto a standard bike.
The INUF Riders Project has evolved into two sessions, a beginner’s session and an intermediate session which takes place weekly. The participants will then advance to monthly social rides at nearby parks and planned social rides in the borough.
Newham residents have a much higher rate of mental ill health compared with the national average; 1 in 4 compared to 1 in 6 nationally. People living with mental illness are more likely to have classic heart-risk factors such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and hypertension, all of which can be made worse by some antipsychotic medications. This is why INUF are determined to make fitness part of a social programme for people who are tackling mental illness.
Participant: “I am quite overweight and I didn’t think I could ride, the bikes (e-bikes) have given me the opportunity and the confidence to learn.”
The INUF Riders have facilitators and volunteers that are DBS checked and first aid qualified who are sensitive to the needs of the service users that attend the project. All individuals running the project have organised cycling sessions for staff and volunteers with Cycle Training UK. INUF were also awarded the Communities of Health (COH) award in 2010 for outstanding services and improving the health and wellbeing of local people. INUF were reviewed in 2013 and the award was renewed for the following three years.
As the target audience are people suffering from mental illness, the group starts small, averaging at six participants per session in order to ensure that participants get the full amount of support and attention. By the third month of the session, the groups are split: Beginners in Stratford Park and Riders in West Ham Park.
The grant has helped INUF create a brand new cycling project for mental health service users/survivors and carers in Newham. Service users are being referred by the local recovery teams to the project which means the project’s membership is increasing. Not only can users take part in the cycling project but other activities that INUF run too.
Gwenyth, participant: “I have learnt how to cycle for the first time ever; I have so much confidence now”.
Giving advice to other projects, The INUF Riders say to be ready for the long haul. They say you need consistency and preparation, and to make sure you have staff or volunteers available to attend a cycle training course and someone with mechanical skills too. They also said to try and reserve some funding for adequate shelter, for example in winter, so things stay protected/covered.
Christos Tzanetis, Project Leader/ Instructor: “Thank you very much for the opportunity, we couldn’t do it without funding. It’s only been a few months but it’s been awesome!”