Our Story

"The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future."

Theodore Roosevelt

SWEDA has grown from a community group, initially known as MEDA, that was set up in 1992 in Shepton Mallet, Somerset. The group was established by Mendip CVS and the family of an eating disorder sufferer, and initially ran as a monthly self help support group. The ethos underpinning the group was that is would be 'user led', thus empowering it's members to take control of their recovery.

In 1994, a grant was awarded from Comic Relief, to fund a part time co-ordinator post. From that, grew the beginnings of SWEDA's Helpline and Community Support work. Two years later, in 1996, MEDA organised a major national conference, chaired by leading lights in the field of eating disorders, including Susie Orbach, alongside prominent members of the Somerset Health Authority. The success of the conference ensured that ongoing funding was secured from the NHS and Social Services and the organisation become SEDA – Somerset Eating Disorders Association, extending it's services county-wide. SEDA formed as a charity and limited company and employed two new members of staff. They moved to new offices in Street and a counselling service was established with funding from Comic Relief.

1997 saw more funding secured, enabling SEDA to employ a fulltime Volunteer Coordinator. The second conference was held in Shepton Mallet, again to great acclaim. The charity maintained it's voluntary sector status, whilst forging working partnerships with statutory services and in 1999, began working with Somerset Partnership Trust – resulting in specialist eating disorder services for clients, combining the experience and knowledge of both parties.

SEDA was very involved in the setting up of the NHS Somerset Eating Disorders Team in 2001 and the team was initially based at SEDA's office in Street. A year later, the low-cost counselling service began – enabling affordable therapy to be offered to those in need. In 2003, whilst working in partnership with Mendip Housing, SEDA was able to provide supported housing to those affected by eating disorders. Comic Relief funded a 3-year '18-25 Project', giving SEDA the opportunity to support University students affected by eating disorders – the project took on a part-time manager from the Eating Disorders Team.

2004 saw the renaming of SEDA to SWEDA – reflecting the widening of the services offered to Somerset & Wessex and, vitally, it's funding opportunities. Students at nearby Strode College designed a new logo and SWEDA and the Somerset Partnership NHS Trust won the Somerset and Dorset NHS Health Community Modernisation Award.

Personnel changes followed in 2005, with the managerial responsibilities of SWEDA being divided between a Business Manager and a Client Services Manager. The following year, innovative projects continued – the Schools Project began in May, funded by the Bramble Trust, and a new satellite service was established in Bournemouth. The 18-25 Project came to an end, culminating in a successful conference at the University of Bath. 2007 saw more exciting developments – as demand for helpline services increased, SWEDA frontline services adopted an 'online chat support' service, pioneered by the 18-25 Project. New Support Groups in Street and Colleges of Further Education were set up, along with a new Craft Group. SWEDA was delighted to celebrate 15 years of operating at its Annual General Meeting that year.

In 2008, SWEDA turned its focus to core service provision once more. At the same time, it began a new system of quantitative data collection, as well as joining the Helplines Association. SWEDA continued to share its expertise the following year, delivering a comprehensive training programme to ReThink about eating disorder. A package of training was also delivered to GP surgeries throughout Somerset and the Bournemouth Project became an independent charity, called 'I*Eat'. Data collection continued to be of importance – and a new system for qualitative data collection was established.

Lottery funding was secured for the 'Empower Your Life' project in 2010, and then in 2011 NHS funding cuts were announced. This had a huge impact on SWEDA and difficult strategic decisions had to be made the following year in an attempt to preserve the service. In order to survive, SWEDA reduced their service levels, reduced their staff hours and found cheaper office premises. They also sought to fundraise a substantial amount – it was 'make or break'.

2013 saw SWEDA move to 'Heads Up' in Wells, a mental health charity also affected by funding cuts. This move was beneficial; then started the involved process of Lottery Applications 1 & 2 in the same year. The service was 'cut to the bone' at that point, however, in May 2015, SWEDA was informed that the bid had been successful. The charity has been awarded a 5-year 'Reaching Communities' grant, from which the team will be able to project fund a comprehensive Eating Disorders service throughout Somerset.

The charity has now relocated back to it's original home in Shepton Mallet and new premises have been refurbished at The Coach House on Park Road. A new chapter commences - for further information please contact us on 01749 343344.

“During the time I accessed the SWEDA Services I used both the Support Group and one to one counselling sessions. Both services used together offer the life raft that is so desperately needed to bring balance, stability and empowered choice."

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