Our Story

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SWEDA’s roots 

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 someone with an eating disorder. It initially ran as a monthly self-help support group. The ethos underpinning the group was that it would be user-led, thus empowering its members to take control of their recovery.

In 1994, a grant was awarded from Comic Relief, to fund a part time coordinator 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.

Funding growth 

1997 saw more funding secured, enabling SEDA to employ a full time Volunteer Coordinator. The second conference was held in Shepton Mallet, again to great acclaim. The charity maintained its voluntary sector status, whilst forging working partnerships with statutory services. In 1999, SEDA 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 three-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.

SWEDA emerges

2004 saw the renaming of SEDA to SWEDA, reflecting the widening of the services offered in Somerset and Wessex. 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’s frontline services adopted an online chat support service, pioneered by the 18-25 Project. New Support Groups in Street and Further Education colleges 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 disorders. 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.

Funding cuts

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 services, staff and overheads. The charity also sought to fundraise a substantial amount – it was a make or break situation.

2013 saw SWEDA move to Heads Up in Wells, a mental health charity also affected by funding cuts. Then started the involved process of Lottery Applications 1 and 2 in the same year. The service was greatly reduced at that point. However, in May 2015, SWEDA was informed that the bid had been successful. The charity had been awarded a five-year Reaching Communities Grant, from which the team was able to fund a comprehensive Eating Disorders service throughout Somerset.

Present day 

The charity has now relocated back to its original home in Shepton Mallet and the new premises have been refurbished at The Coach House on Park Road. Due to our ever-growing service demand, SWEDA has also secured premises in Bristol, widening our reach in the South West. To meet demand, SWEDA has employed substantial additional staff and continues to expand. 

2022 is also a special year for SWEDA – we celebrate 30 years of award-winning service provision! As we look back on our success, we can see how far we have come and are immensely proud of everything we have achieved! We look forward to welcoming in the next 30 years of supporting people affected by eating disorders and raising awareness to change the way that society thinks about eating disorders. 

“I had consistently been losing weight for more than 8 months and had become accustomed to eating very little. This triggered a return of my anorexia, after a 20-year period of recovery. SWEDA were able to offer me an appointment the very next day. When we met I was feeling very ill and frightened.I spoke to them about my fears, but then took the decision to go to my doctor on the way home. I was admitted to hospital within a few days.”

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