Our focus on service user involvement is at the heart of our philosophy and shapes every aspect of our work. It means putting the people who use our services in control of the care and support they receive. Our experience proves that this helps them overcome mental health issues and lead more fulfilling lives.
What is the Service User Involvement Directorate?
Our Service User Involvement Directorate works in a variety of ways to ensure that the people we support lead the way, not just in their own support but in decisions at every level about Together’s governance, and the design and delivery of our services. The Directorate also works to develop and support innovation in service user involvement, leadership and peer support, as well as raising awareness of mental health issues more widely based on the experiences and priorities of people with lived experience of mental distress.
For more information about our history and what we’ve done, click here to see our 10th Anniversary timeline.
- Supports the development of service user involvement and leadership at all levels and across departments within Together
- Creates links between other individuals and groups beyond Together to influence local, regional and national decisions about mental health care
- Develops and delivers service user led training programmes and workshops relating to service user involvement, leadership and peer support both internally and externally to Together
- Works with public, private and voluntary organisations to research, publish guides and share specialist advice around service user involvement
- Takes on contracts from NHS trusts around service user involvement, such as peer support training
- Develops peer-led initiatives, such as our peer support models and self management
Who runs the Directorate?
The Directorate is led by Angela Newton, who has used mental health services herself. The team is supported by people who use their local collective experience to influence Together nationally. The majority of staff and all volunteers have accessed mental health services or experienced mental distress themselves.
Developing service user involvement locally, nationally and regionally
Working with partners
The Directorate has run projects that develop mental health service user involvement and leadership alongside partners in the voluntary, public and private sector including: Healthwatch England; Mental Health Foundation; Peer2Peer; St Andrews Healthcare; The Priory and Care UK. We hosted and supported the early development of NSUN before it became an independent organisation, as part of our commitment to service user involvement and leadership, and still work closely with them.
We are also providing specialist advice to Enrich, a project run by St George’s, University of London, alongside people with lived experience. The Enrich project researches the impact and outcomes of peer support for people being discharged from in-patient to community mental health settings. It is currently being piloted in six local NHS trust sites, and involves creating a detailed handbook to ensure that consistent peer support is being delivered within the pilots. We are working with them to support consistency with essential service user-led principles around peer support in practice.
A national voice for people who use mental health services
It is important to us that we share the experiences of those we work with at a national level to make sure their voice is heard. Examples of this are our work with Interrelate, an international mental health coalition and our role as part of Macmillan Cancer Support’s Mental Health and Cancer Taskforce, looking at the issues facing people with this dual lived experience.
We were also involved in the development of the National Involvement Partnership’s 4PI national standards for the involvement of service users and carers in mental health and social care services. Together has now signed up to review and refresh our approach in line with these to ensure the meaningful involvement of service users within our organisation in line with national best practice.
National Steering Group
Together’s National Steering Group is a team of people with lived experience of mental distress who are elected for three-year terms to discuss issues and influence the direction of both the Directorate’s activities and Together as a whole.
The National Steering Group has two places on the Together Board of Trustees, and the Board also has two other places for people who have lived experience of mental distress. Four members of the NSG also sit on Together’s Broader Management Group. In this way, service users use their own experiences to influence and lead on a range of issues from governance through to our local projects.
Peer support and self management
Peer support takes place when people with experience of mental distress support each other towards better wellbeing, as people of equal value and on a reciprocal basis, using their own lived experience as a tool for support. Self management is a peer-led approach to the day to day management of mental health conditions, which enables people to develop the skills they need to deal with problems and celebrate their successes, focusing on what they “can do” rather than what they “can’t”. The Service User Involvement Directorate is working in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation to pilot self management within our services.
Involvement and Leadership Grant Scheme
Together’s Involvement and Leadership Grant Scheme is open to both Together staff and people who use our services who have an initiative or idea around service user involvement or leadership. Applications are judged by a management committee formed of people who have experience of using mental health services and the scheme has supported ideas across our services, ranging from getting active with football therapy, service user involvement within our criminal justice services, training and the setting up of new groups, as well as many more.