June 1, 2021
Volunteers Week 2021
It’s Volunteers Week 2021 and at PSS we’re lucky to have a squad of awesome volunteers from all over the organisation supporting us to be outstanding at providing person-shaped support. In our drive to embed co-production into everything we do around here we’re excited to have lots of our volunteer positions represented by people who use our services now or have done in the past. They have walked in the shoes and know exactly what it feels like so they are the people who can really understand how we need to grow. We’d like to introduce you to just a hand-full of our amazing PSS volunteers.
Meet Danielle, a co-production buddy from our Prisoners’ Families service
It’s #VolunteersWeek and we’re at the start of a super exciting time for volunteering at PSS. We’ve recently started welcoming a brand-new squad of volunteers at PSS in the shape of our co-production buddies. These are people who’ll support us to ensure that our services are always built around not only the needs but the unique personalities of the people who matter most – those we support. If you want to be a co-production buddy email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danielle was one of our first co-production buddies and she’s working alongside our head of quality, Simone, to help make our policies and procedures more inclusive and to shake up the way we do things to ensure the very best and most person-shaped support.
Danielle’s got so much drive and a big passion for giving back in whatever way she can. Her family were referred to PSS after she was sentenced to serve time in prison in 2019. Her children – who both have additional needs – were finding it difficult to adjust to the change and struggling with school; and her parents – who started caring for her children full-time – had lots to adapt to. This difficulty was only heightened by the pandemic particularly as her mum was forced to shield whilst supporting her grandchildren. Danielle explains how our Prisoners’ Families team provided a ‘lifeline’ to her mum during this challenging time, delivering food and activity parcels to keep her children happy but also spending time to chat to her mum and looking after her emotional wellbeing. ‘Without PSS I think my kids would have had to go into care’, says Danielle. Danielle’s daughter also accessed one-to-one counselling through the service and, when she left prison, Danielle was referred for support too. She’s been involved in writing projects as well as family support groups.
‘I wanted to give something back to PSS after what they had done for me…I’m a big advocate for PSS now, I tell everyone about what they do’, says Danielle. When the opportunity to get involved with co-production at PSS came up Danielle jumped at the chance; ‘I will do anything to help, my glass is always half full,’ she beams. With a background in working as a prison officer, Danielle had lots of experience and great insights to offer to our co-production team. She’s found the experience really motivating and says that to her it’s all about ‘making a good service even better.’ Danielle feels that she can give a lot back in terms of breaking down barriers to us working effectively with those people who are experiencing trauma, since she has lived through this herself. She says that however much rapport you build with someone it’s important that people feel that a decision is being made with their best interests and not just because it achieves an outcome. She feels that it’s only by working with people who truly understand that we can get that balance right and build trust.
In her own words, Danielle is ‘dead excited’ to be at the start of her co-production journey with us. She’s already got loads of ideas whirling around her head and she’s excited to be working with Simone who she explains like her, ‘really takes the bull by the horns.’ We’re delighted to have Danielle on board and think her approach will really inspire others. Watch this space!
Meet Pete, a peer supporter for our Wellbeing Centres and part of the Upbeat Liverpool team
Meet Pete. Pete is another one of our wonderful PSS volunteers. He’s a peer supporter for our Wellbeing Centres. After using the service himself he now feels ready to support other people with their mental health and wellbeing. It’s safe to say that Pete gives as much to others as the fantastic Wellbeing Centre team have given to him.
Last year Pete’s passion for the Wellbeing Centres and for providing support to people with shared mental health experience shone perhaps more than ever before when he helped us build UpbeatLiverpool.com. Pete was part of a crack team of peer supporters, Wellbeing Centre staff and our communications team in shaping not only what the site looked like but how it needed to make people feel. This was in the height of the pandemic when an online mental health and wellbeing resource that replicated the community feeling of the Wellbeing Centres was so desperately needed by many experiencing heightened anxiety. People were unable to come to the group support sessions which were a lifeline for many and the co-production team were so passionate about supporting their peers through this challenging time.
Pete played a central role in this project, supporting a lot with the technical aspects of the website and how to enhance the user experience. This really played to his strengths and he enjoyed being so involved in creating something so innovative and new to PSS. Pete continues to support us in optimising Upbeat – it’s been a wonderful example of pure co-production happening at PSS. Last week Pete joined our chief exec Lesley and some more people involved in co-production at PSS to present to some social care leaders on the theme. He took get pride in sharing the Upbeat story as an example of this inclusive and better approach of working. He got such a boost from people listening to his insights and learning from his experience – proving that co-production not only works better it also makes people feel happier.
Meet Terry, who champions what great support looks like for people with learning disabilities
Terry, who’s supported by our Making Days South service in Liverpool, was shortlisted for our Volunteer of the Year Award this year and it’s easy to see why. Terry has played a key role in introducing new staff to PSS, presenting during our staff inductions alongside his fabulous support worker Peter and explaining what good support looks like for him and other people with learning disabilities. Not only that, he’s really been involved in shaping what these sessions look like. Our director of services, Harriet has built such a close relationship with Terry based on his relentless positivity and willingness to help us grow in any way he can.
Terry also offered his expertise in the recruitment of our teams. During the pandemic, he played a key role in the recruitment of our new head of homes and communities over Zoom. He spent a day and a half planning the important questions he would ask candidates and then interviewing all five people alongside others from the service. It was an intensive day and Terry was so insightful in advising us on the candidates who really shone so that would could recruit someone awesome for the role.
It’s refreshing to see how Terry is always up for throwing himself into any new challenge that comes his away, as he approaches every task with sheer determination. Just this week he delivered his first induction session over Zoom alongside Peter and, day by day, he’s becoming more and more confident and learning more and more skills for himself alongside supporting PSS to be awesome. What a legend!
Meet Leah who knows what it takes to be a great Shared Lives carer and supports other people to find the right match
Leah is one of our wonderful Shared Lives service experts. Based on her positive experience of Shared Lives she knows exactly what it takes to be a super-duper carer. She supports our team to interview prospective carers and spot people who will really empower someone to live life the way they choose to.
Leah loves volunteering as a service expert and she’s gained so much more confidence as a result. Since sessions were taking place virtually during lockdown Leah was able to learn new digital skills and stay positive and proactive whilst she couldn’t volunteer in her local school as usual. She’s so excited to support other people to find amazing carers like hers and also to make new carers feel at ease about the role.
She asks people questions about things that are important to her. This includes how they would support her if she was feeling homesick. And a big question for Leah is whether they could support her with trying out funky new hairstyles. This is a big part of Leah’s identity and she thinks everyone should get that person-centred care. Leah’s now training other people who use the service to have their voice heard just like her.
If you’re supported by PSS Shared Lives and would like to volunteer as a service expert like Leah, just let your development worker know.
Be a carer and support individuality and expression: sharedlivescarers.com.
Meet Will* age eleven whose dad is in prison. Will wants to support other children like him
Will* is supported by our Prisoners’ Families service in Liverpool. His dad is in prison and he lives with his grandparents. Jess from our team has worked closely with him for two years through one-to-one and group support. When he started with the service Will said he just wanted to feel like a ‘normal child’. He says that working with Jess, he feels listened to and is better able to understand and manage his emotions especially in school. He’s also been given the opportunity to retell his own story to others through working with Writing on the Wall and becoming a published author.
Will has recently started volunteering with PSS as a co-production buddy. He was applauded during our co-production workshops for being his genuine and open self and has been supporting Jess with children’s groups, using his kind and caring qualities to help children like him to break down barriers and feel happier. He’s got loads of ideas for what the children’s groups should look like in the future and always makes it his mission to support people like him in making decisions for themselves, rather than us making them for them. He wants everyone to have a voice and a choice, empowering them to be confident and express themselves like he does.
Will’s confidence really shone last week when he presented at an event with social care reps from across Merseyside who were coming together to discuss the One Liverpool Plan and how by working alongside the people we support we can offer better services for everyone. Will really stole the show, telling people a bit about his personal journey, how he has been treated at PSS and how important he thinks co-production is alongside our chief exec, Lesley and other PSS people. In the past Will has been quite guarded when talking about his dad’s imprisonment due to the judgement that often comes with this but during this important strategic meeting Will talked openly and honestly to a room of executives and directors. After the meeting, Jess asked Will how he found the courage to do this and he explained, ‘I think I just realised, just because my dad was in prison it doesn’t make me a bad person or mean I’m going to end up in prison too, so I don’t think I need to feel embarrassed about it’.
Will’s situation does not define who he is as a person, and his ability to recognise this shows how far he has come and how he’ll be such a fantastic example to other people in our mission to really embed a culture of co-production in everything we do here. ‘I feel so proud’, said Will after the session and – even better – ‘all my friends are so jealous’. Thank you Will, you’re a star!