Siel Bleu Ireland
October 23, 2018
Outline the vision and mission of the Social Enterprise
Siel Bleu’s vision is to create a society where older adults people living with disease can experience the benefits of physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour irrespective of their social, cultural or economic background. Thus our mission is to provide affordable and accessible exercise programmes for all members of Ireland’s older population and for people living with disease, to ensure they live full and independent lives. Siel Bleu Ireland was established in 2010 to meet the extensive unmet need for professional, preventative exercise classes for older people and adults living with chronic disease.
Our population is ageing; the over 65 age group saw the largest increase from the 2011 census. With this ageing trend brings an increase in sedentary lifestyles, reduced mobility, increase in falls as well as chronic and age related diseases. One of the simplest ways to counteract the adverse effects of ageing is exercise, however it can be difficult and intimidating for an older adult or person living with disease to reach the WHO’s target of 150 minutes exercise per week. Often people don’t even know where to start.
That’s where Siel Bleu Ireland comes in. We offer professional exercise programmes that help to counteract the adverse effects of ageing and sedentary lifestyles and help to increase our participants’ physical, social and mental wellbeing.
Our expert Physical Trainers hold at a minimum a degree in sports science or a related field and are then trained to Siel Bleu standards which have been developed by the Siel Bleu Association over the last 21 years. Our range of programmes delivered and adapted to suit the needs of our participants by our Physical Trainers result in physical, social and mental wellbeing.
How has the Social Enterprise developed and tackled issues?
Siel Bleu Ireland was founded in 2010 to help create an opportunity for older adults nursing home residents to practice physical activity and therefore improve their overall wellbeing. Starting the delivery of programmes in 2011 in three nursing homes with 45 residents, we now work in over 110 nursing homes. Over the years we have also expanded our scope by working with community groups and day care centres, in private homes and designing specific programmes to help patient group members manage their conditions, such as COPD and Stroke Survivors. Today we work with 5000 people across 20 counties. We employ 23 highly skilled and educated trainers who travel to where we are needed to deliver our life-enhancing exercise programmes.
Research has shown that 60% of chronic disease can be prevented by making changes to four key lifestyle behaviours, physical activity being one of them. However, there is a common misconception that exercise is not a viable or worthwhile activity for older adults. We have spent the last 8 years tackling this mindset with decision makers and our target audience themselves to change opinions and demonstrate how exercise is important as a preventative and rehabilitative tool as we age. To do so we offer free sample classes to potential clients, have a constant presence on social media, at conferences and recently in the media, trying to get the message of the importance of exercise. In 2018 we launched our first awareness week called “I Can” Empowering Through Exercise that highlighted the achievements of five Siel Bleu participants to show if they can do it anyone can.
We are also proud recipients of two commendations from the Irish Healthcare Awards and finalists for the Social Enterprise Development Award, Social Enterprise Ireland Awards, Young Entrepreneur Awards and Businesswoman of the Year awards.
What has the overall impact of the work been?
Siel Bleu delivers life enhancing exercise programmes to 5000 older adults and people living with chronic disease in 20 counties across Ireland in nursing homes, day care centres, community centres, with patient groups and one to one in private homes. Our programmes result in a triple impact effect; firstly there are the obvious physical benefits of exercising such as increasing strength, balance, flexibility and fall prevention. The interaction in our groups lead to reduction in social isolation and the improvements in physical wellbeing mean people can get out and about more and connect with others. These physical and social benefits combine to result in improved mental health.
Our programmes have also been scientifically validated. In 2013 we conducted the European Commission funded nursing home study HAPPIER, which showed our programmes reduce one fall per resident per year and one hospital occurring fall every five years.
Our community based pulmonary rehabilitation programme “Exercise, COPD & Me” shows 86% of participants improve the aerobic capacity within 12 weeks of doing our programme.
The impact of our programmes is really reflected in the achievements and stories of our 5,000 participants and how a simple tool like exercise can make a huge impact on their lives. Prior to starting our Exercise, COPD & Me class in Bray, John used up to 30 bottles of oxygen a month. Through exercise John has reduced his dependence on oxygen to only 1 bottle a month. Thelma was in and out of hospital once if not twice a week prior to joining our COPD class in Whitehall. After two years of the class she has only had one short hospital stay and no longer requires 24hr oxygen, only on exertion. Her pulmonary physiotherapist and nurse attribute this to the exercise classes.
What makes this Social Enterprise unique?
We are the only entity in Ireland, for or not-for-profit organisation who use adapted exercises as a tool to improve physical, social and mental health of older adults and people living with chronic disease. The Siel Bleu Association has been delivering these programmes across Europe for the last 21 years and has developed a best practice for working with older adults. We only employ Physical Trainers with degrees in Sports Science or a related field, they are then trained on the standards created by the Siel Bleu Association. This ensures that each member of our staff has the knowledge and skills to work with our participant cohort and ensure they are practicing physical activity in a safe environment designed to suit their abilities.
Really what makes our work unique is when we combine our wide range of programmes, delivered by our professional and inclusive physical trainers, are the impact they can have on not only the participants but on their loved ones. We deliver a class in Foxrock for the Living Well with Dementia programme. One gentleman who attends has been living with the disease for a number of years. This class is the only time in the week where he gets out of his pyjamas, gets dressed and shaves. Our programme has given him a purpose in an otherwise confusing time for him. It also acts as a supportive outlet as she attends the classes with him and can interact with other carers. By giving the gentleman a purpose and a reason to get out of bed it has had a tremendous impact on his physical, social and mental wellbeing as well as on the wellbeing of his family.
Please describe how your Social Enterprise engages in trading activity in a way to achieve your social mission
Siel Bleu Ireland charges a small fee for our programmes which just covers the cost of delivery and our over heads. For our group programmes in nursing homes and with Patient Groups we charge the organisers and for the communities and our private programmes in people’s homes we bill the individual directly. We also apply for numerous grant funding each year to help develop or scale our programmes. Since 2015 we have received funding from The Ireland Funds, Medtronic Healthy Community Funding and a number of HSE National Lottery grants. Siel Bleu Ireland is currently 90% sustainable and the Siel Bleu Association in Europe bridges the gap between our current income and that sustainability. 90% of our income comes from the delivery of our programmes; the remaining 10% is from grants and the Siel Bleu Association. We aim to be sustainable by the end of 2019.
By charging a fee for our programmes it affords us the opportunity to hire experienced and highly educated Physical Trainers who are at the core of the work we do. Their education and expertise ensures we have the best people delivering programmes to our participants so they can gain the maximum benefits in a safe environment.
How can the public support the Social Enterprise?
One of the best ways the public can support Siel Bleu Ireland is to attend our classes. We have a wide variety of programmes for older adults and people living with numerous chronic diseases and by attending our classes they will support our vision of reducing sedentary behaviours amongst our older populations. They can also support us by spreading the word about the programmes we offer and encouraging their peers, family and friends to take up activity. We offer many opportunities for people to take up physical activity and our website has a list of all our classes as well as some advice about taking up exercise at an older age.
As a not-for-profit we have a limited budget when it comes to areas such as marketing. In the past we have work with some fantastic volunteers who have offered their expertise in film making, photography, graphic design and web design in order to help us achieve our marketing and communications goals. We welcome volunteers to lend a hand with marketing and communications and we advertise all our volunteer posts through Volunteer Ireland and also on our social media pages.
The public can also help us by fundraising for our organisation or donating to our cause. 100% of the funds raised by the public go directly to supporting our activities on the group. There is a donate button on our website and people can easily fundraise for us via Facebook.
How is the Social Enterprise transparent and accountable?
a non-profit organisation with charitable status it is important for us to have proper governance structures in place. Siel Bleu Ireland publish all our audited accounts and annual reports on our website which can be found on https://www.sielbleu.ie/home/about-us/ This page also shows information about our governance and lists the members of our Board of Directors who meet quarterly.
Siel Bleu Ireland is classified as a type C organisation on the Governance Code and we are currently “on the journey” to full compliance. We aim to have full compliance by the end of 2019. We are also moving towards having SORP financial statements for 2019’s accounts.