Self Help UK


Our history

How did it all begin?

Legend has it that a local health professional who had received a diagnosis of terminal cancer approached the Development worker at Nottingham Council for Voluntary Service (NCVS).  Although she knew the medical treatments available and had good information and support from health and social services, she wanted to make contact with people who might be going through the same experience as herself. 

What followed was an item played on the radio asking people to get in touch.  This prompted a look at whether there might be other support groups for people sharing similar health issues or life experiences. At the time, there were around 60 such groups.  It was felt that a specialist support service would be useful, not only in mapping the groups that existed, but also in providing services to new groups in the setting up stages and services to established groups. 

Key milestones

1982- Judy Wilson identified a need for self help group support in Nottingham and established ‘The Self Help Groups Project’ as a pilot with two half-time workers. The first directory of self help groups was published (produced on a duplicator!)

1984- The project expanded and became known as ‘The Self Help Team’ and was based at NCVS.

1986 – ‘Self Help Groups – Getting Started, Keeping Going’ book by Judy Wilson was published. The sixth edition of the directory of self help groups was produced.

1991 – The General Dispensary establishes a dedicated fund for self help groups and 17 groups apply successfully for grants.

1992 – The Joseph Rowntree Foundation funds a two year research project on good practice, between self help groups and professionals.

1994 – A national conference entitled ‘Action for Self Help’ took place in Nottingham.  The local newspaper reported, “When it comes to self help, Nottingham is setting an example for the rest of the country, according to an influential think tank.”

1997- With a name change to ‘Self Help Nottingham’, the organisation became an independent charity and company limited by guarantee. Their first website was set up.

1998 – The charity moved to city centre premises, which increased accessibility for people from all areas of Nottingham.  The offices were refurbished with the aid of a Lottery grant and help from local businesses.

2005 – The first intranet directory of self help groups was produced for Nottingham City Primary Care Trust.

2009 – Self Help Nottingham represented the UK at the Self Help European Experts Meeting in Berlin.

2010 – A chapter on self help, written by Caroline Bell and Joan Cook, was published in a book called ‘Voice for Experience’.  The directory of self help groups continues to be produced each year.

SHN began a three year joint research project with Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Nottingham: ‘ESTEEM’ (effective support for self help/mutual aid groups).  Funded by the Big Lottery, researchers looked at the ways practitioners can best support local self help groups.

2011 – Self Help Nottingham won the ‘Nottingham Social Enterprise of the Year’ award.  
A Recovery Network project began, funded by the Drug and Alcohol Action Team.

2012 – SHN was part of a group of local organisations that worked together to develop a model that took into account the varying needs of each area.   This became Healthwatch.

2013 – A new national division was launched which focussed on rolling out services nationally.  This was branded ‘Self Help Connect’.  

2015 – The charity rebranded as ‘Self Help UK’, with a new logo, to reflect the national work undertaken and ambitions that we have for future work.

The Beyond Diagnosis project began, in partnership with Macmillan, which offered emotional and practical support to people affected by cancer. (We continue to run this service.)

The Macmillan Insight project ran from 2015-2016 and identified self help and support activities for people affected by cancer in Nottinghamshire. Click here to read the full project report.

2016 – The Early Diagnosis project began, which encouraged people to complete the bowel cancer screening kit to enable early diagnosis.  Click here to read the full project report.

2017 – The Tandem project was launched in Derby city.  It supports people with long term conditions who feel isolated and helps them to get more active in their community. You can read more about the project here.

Self Help UK successfully hosted the 14th European Experts’ Meeting, with delegates from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, and Norway attending.  The group agreed to share their research and good practice with each other so that we can begin to develop an international knowledge bank of self help resources.