Charity of the Month

About SEED

SEED’s mission is to create a facility that provides sufferers and carers alike affected by Eating Disorders, with confidential independent and non-judgemental advice and support to ensure they are aided by the best possible network of care and support to facilitate recovery.

Seed is a local Hull charity helping people with eating disorders to have motivation, information and support to recover, and to support their carers and loved ones. Seed began 22 years ago when Marg and Dennis discovered their daughter’s eating disorder at just 10 years old. While fighting to get her the support she needed, they saw the huge gap in support available. Their daughter Gemma was turned away for treatment being told “She’s not low enough in weight to have a problem, it’s probably just a phase”, devastatingly this response meant that just a year later Marg and Dennis were told that their daughter had just 24 hours to live. Thus began their 13-year battle where upon they nearly lost their daughter 4 times to this devastating mental health illness. They knew, change was desperately needed.

Seed is at an exciting point in its development- with need growing for our services, we have ambitious plans to help more people. We have linked with partners such as the The Hull CCG, The East Rising CCG, Tigers Trust, The Ellesmere Centre for counselling and psychotherapy training, The Co-op academies Trust, schools UK wide, and HEY Mind so we can help more people with early intervention and support.

Their Challenges

We currently have several financial challenges. The impact of the pandemic halted all fundraising opportunities, alongside the deterioration in the health of our Co-founders. Marg Oaten, one-half of our founders, has been our key volunteer and managed Seed for 22 years, but has had to take a step back due to health concerns and is due spinal surgery. Dennis, her husband and full-time carer, also lives with Prostate Cancer. This inspiring couple invested their own money to set up SEED and hasn’t taken any numeration in 22 years of its existence. However, the pandemic, brought about a realisation, that without Marg and Dennis, there is no SEED. This means we have had to employ a Charity manager which put a big additional burden on our budget but was essential. This, at the same time as COVID has meant some of our normal fundraising activities had to stop. And the increase in our referrals means we know we need to grow both in terms of the numbers of people we can support and team SEED supporting them, and in developing more early intervention and prevention so that people do not develop eating disorders in the first place.

All these challenges mean we have revised our fundraising strategy to diversify income streams and increased our activity, including more bids to trusts and foundations, and crowdfunding campaigns, inputted extra work on the Educational Toolkit to use as not just a vital resource to help our children thrive, but also a model we charge a subscription for to bring in a sustainable income stream. The positives are we have turned the charity around with the help of our Charity Manager, whose role and work has brought in the extra support of a services manager, support worker and administrator, enabling us to help more people.

We were for the first time in years feeling like we had a solid base, without as much emphasis and time needed on worrying about how we survive as a charity, but then suddenly on 20th January 2022 we were told our CHCP contract was not to be renewed come March 31st 2022 (a 25k per annum funding stream) along with losing our beloved Resource Room with it, unless we can find the £35,000 rent that was covered by the contract. This news has come at the worst possible time. We are due to launch our Recovery after the Recovery Project, commissioned by the Hull and East Riding CCG and also about to work in partnership with Ellesmere Centre which would allow our Seedlings (Service users) the opportunity to receive FREE one to one therapy. This news has put all of these plans in jeopardy, and we are fighting hard to continue the positive and life changing work we had planned. However, with manpower now even lower and no room to facilitate, the strain on our 4 key staff is becoming a concern. Their workload increases, salaries are not, and worry and stress impact their well-being also. It is paramount we protect our Team so we can deliver the services and support we know we excel at. For more context, please see here

Lockdown has made coping with an eating disorder harder. The loneliness of lockdown has made life more difficult, many fear leaving home and building social connections again as lockdown eases. Bella told us “The fact I’ve had more spare time/lack of routine has caused an increase in ruminating thoughts of guilt when it comes to eating and more negative thoughts around food… I have been a shell of myself.”
We carried out research during COVID and found that 70% of respondents felt lockdown had negatively impacted their eating habits with 62% feeling that lockdown had negatively impacted their ability to control their eating disorder. We give people motivation, information and support to recover- and we give hope that they can get better. In practice, this means support groups, telephone advice service, an educational toolkit for schools, nutritional support, email buddies, dance and movement classes, as well as a wealth of information and guidance via our website.

Their Achievements / Goals

Although SEED started as a local charity in September 2000, serving Hull and East Riding, its area of influence is now country wide and even international thanks to modern day technology, and the new ways of working brought about by the pandemic, allowing to us to help even more people, around the UK and overseas. Indeed, our website is the second most visited in the UK, next to the national charity for eating disorders, BEAT. We have also been instrumental in raising awareness of eating disorders and helping to change the narrative, thanks to our Charity Manager Gemma Oaten, being not just an advocate for Eating Disorders, but also a respected Actress and public figure. Gemma has used her profile and voice for good and we are regularly part of the wider conversations around eating disorders in the press and beyond. Challenging systems, perceptions and being a charity that provides, insight, hope and the fight, to bring change at government level.

See just some examples here –
Lorraine Kelly – HEADUCATION with Dr Alex George and Gemma Oaten
BBC Breakfast Eating Disorder Report with SEED, Marg, Dennis and Gemma Oaten
Loose Women ITV – EDAW 2021 – Gemma Oaten

Desirables in our plans for the toolkit include –

Investing in the SEED toolkit online learning platform content delivery methods, to provide a more engaging and memorable end user experience for teachers and students.

Invest in the refresh and update of online video content for young people to address modern and emergent topics in eating disorder support including TikTok and shifting balance of social media and online.

Build out our evaluative framework to better capture impact for individual young people and enable us to visibly measure and demonstrate the benefits we are providing, and feed back into our overall priorities and direction.

Underlying updates to the SEED toolkit online learning platform for purposes of compliance and secure operation.

Continued provision of Amazon cloud computer services to host the SEED toolkit for the next 24 months and scale to meet the needs of increased video content storage and delivery.

To add, the toolkit is also delivered in partnership by numerous Premier League Foundation clubs, whose delegates deliver to schools in their respective communities. See above the picture of our work with the Tigers Trust Foundation in Hull school, Andrew Marvel college. We are in talks with Liverpool FC Foundation and have wonderful case studies of the impact of this work as can be seen here.

Finally, Gemma has been invited to No.10 Downing Street just recently and visited to help educate and raise awareness of the change needed for better Eating Disorder support in the UK along with challenging the current Government obesity strategy and is returning frequently to deliver the conversation for change and see action implemented. See here.

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