October 10, 2017
Five ways we’re getting better together at our Wellbeing Centres
Here at PSS, the people who use our services are the ones who inspire what we do. At our Wellbeing Centres in Liverpool, we work with the people who use our services to design and deliver mental health courses that make a real difference. Working together, we find new, positive ways to do things – and being part of one big team is really helpful to the mental health and wellbeing of those involved, too. Here, Nicky, service Manager at our Wellbeing Centres, tells us about five of the lessons we have learned from getting better together:
- Working together is empowering
The funding at our Wellbeing Centres has been under threat since austerity measures came into place back in 2009. Knowing this, we began to think creatively about how service-users could still support each other if and when our service closed.
‘Six years ago, a steering group was set up by some service-users from the Brolly (our Umbrella Centre), the Avenue and the Leeson Centre (which is now closed due to funding cuts). Its aim was to form a charity that would raise funds and support its members if our Wellbeing Centres ever closed for any reason – and so Kindred Minds was born’ says Brenda, one of our service-users who has been involved with Kindred Minds from the start of the journey. ‘With PSS help and support, our trustees held regular meetings and planned for the future of service-users. We formed a safety net where we could find a room in a suitable building and carry on with various wellbeing activities that benefit us. We vote on what members feel would improve their wellbeing and do the things people feel would help most. As we are all service-users ourselves, it can be difficult at times when we are unwell, but Nicky and Annie from the PSS Wellbeing Centres team support and encourage us, so we can take time out, until we are well enough to return.’
Two years ago, Kindred Minds became a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation), enabling the organisation to apply for more grants and funding. ‘First, some money from small funders came in,’ says Brenda, ‘then funds from Awards For All a few months ago, which enabled us to take on a paid member of staff. She’s only with us for four hours per week, but we now employ Denise, who has really helped us to move forward. We also employed a sessional activity worker, who will lead activities which our service-user members.’
Thanks to the mutual support of our team and our service-users, Kindred Minds is going from strength-to-strength. A fantastic example of how empowered people can take control and do it for themselves, we couldn’t be more proud of how far it has come.
- Working together lets us do more for less
Co-production, putting service users at the heart of planning and delivering mental health services, helps save lives – but, crucially, it also saves money.
Giving our service-users the freedom to form user-led groups, guiding them to deliver effective peer-support services and encouraging them to get involved with and help deliver our services has
increased the capacity and impact of our service. We have increased our service offer and variety of courses through utilising people’s lived experience; whether it be as a gay man, an artist or an avid reader of books.
Sue takes part in the Wellbeing Centres’ ‘Culture Vultures’ group and has found it really helpful on her wellbeing journey: ‘Having first come to PSS with many problems, I had zero confidence and certainly never saw myself as an organiser. However, with loads of help, encouragement and care from the staff at the Wellbeing Centres and other service-users, I am now able to help out with Culture Vultures. We meet up at least once per month. I email everyone and the staff print out my posters so anyone attending can come along. Everyone gets to decide what trips we go on. We have been to some fantastic places: St. Georges Hall, Liverpool Town Hall, Lady Lever Gallery and the Ferry and U-boat Story, amongst dozens of places.’
- Working together helps people feel less alone
All of us working together as a big team creates an improved sense of belonging, a togetherness, a sense of being part of something. And by doing that, it also reduces isolation – helping people feel less alone – and reduces stigma, as it means people being recognised for more than their diagnosis.
Sue’s time at Culture Vultures has really helped her see that she’s not alone: ‘My first outing was to see Psycho with the Philharmonic Orchestra playing. It was a wonderful night, and everyone was so kind; I’d not been out for a while and it gave me confidence to carry on going. All the people attending are so lovely. It’s so good to talk to someone without being judged or criticised and the PSS staff are wonderful; I feel like I’m living my life now.’
- Working together shows people their potential
Another benefit of working together is that we achieve better outcomes for people. Working together has meant people are more able to improve their skills, engage in training opportunities and gain longer-term employment. This has a powerful impact on people’s sense of their personal, social and emotional capabilities. These are fundamental to our ability to experience positive life outcomes and to maintain and grow our own wellbeing. Elwyn has used his experience with chronic anxiety to co-facilitate one of our mindfulness groups: ‘I really enjoyed all the psychology-based groups that involve Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), awareness and mindfulness, and after seeing major improvements after my own treatment, someone came up with the idea of me co-facilitating the eight-week introduction to mindfulness course with one of the professionals,’ he says. ‘I completed peer support volunteering courses and then took the plunge. I wanted to give back as well as continue my own recovery. This has proved to be successful – I’ve really enjoyed it; it’s helped with regaining my confidence; continued to help my mindfulness; but most importantly it seems to work for the centre and everyone involved. My shared experience gave it a different, more personal angle – what I lack in elegance of delivery is made up for with insight to learning methods that have really worked for me. I feel very privileged. It’s a life-changing opportunity.’
- Working together gives the people who use our services a voice
To further our adventure into co-production, in 2015, we employed Elizabeth, a service-user representative. For two hours per week, Elizabeth attends staff and service-user meetings, ensuring our service-users’ voices are heard.
I had worked for years but became unwell through work-related stress. I was referred to the Umbrella Centre by my work coach at the Job Centre and attended courses which helped me manage my stress a lot better. One day I noticed an advert for a service-user representative at the centre, and after much thought, I applied and then was successful at the interview. The job role is very varied but the main things I do are:
· gather feedback from service-users: I meet up with service users across both centres and ask for their feedback through discussion and questionnaires. I ask for suggestions about how the service could be improved and also whether their personal situations and wellbeing has improved since attending.
· attend team meetings and represent the service-user voice: I gather all the feedback and suggestions and provide a report for the quarterly staff team meetings. This was daunting at first but I have gained confidence since beginning the role. At the team meetings I put forward service-user suggestions for the next quarter’s timetables and after discussion, this has resulted in additional courses being offered. I also noticed a major theme from service-users’ feedback was that the staff team could do better at communicating new courses and the idea of a texting service was put forward. It would be fair to say, this took a lot of persistence from myself to finally happen but we now have a texting service to inform service users of new courses and both staff and service users find this helpful.
· report back to service-users about the team’s response to their feedback: I do this by attending service-user meetings with Nicky, the service manager. At the meetings we are able to show how their feedback has influenced the service delivery but also explain why some courses may not be possible due to lack of funding. We then discuss solutions to this, such as fundraising. The service-users then feel included and so a positive impact has been achieved.
On reflection, I feel that the role I have is really important and I hope I have made a difference to the service. I think it is reassuring for people to know when I visit groups that I was also a service-user. The next steps for me are to keep building on my own confidence and as part of this I am currently applying for part-time jobs.
Our co-production journey continues, but together we are stronger and we have more hope in our hearts. I hope you have been inspired by what you have read, enough to begin the first chapter in your own co-production story.
For more information about co-production, have a look on the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) website: www.scie.org.uk. To hear more about co-production at PSS, have a look at our website: www.pss.org.uk/whats-happening/news/co-production-week-2017