Valuing people as experts by experience

Save Our Service: people who use Reading Your Way take action

Back in January, Reading Council began consultation around the future of our Reading Your Way Service, and there was a real chance our service would have to close at the end of the financial year. This was very unwelcome news to the people who benefit from the service, who joined forces to form the Service User Action Group and petition to save Reading Your Way. Their hard work paid off, as after a mixture of petitioning, protesting and making their voices at heard at public meetings, funding for the service was extended for 12 months.

We asked members of the group about their experiences campaigning:

What makes Reading Your Way special?

Chris:
Friends in a friendly place.

Howard:
The people attending make it and it offers a good service. It offers comradery. It’s the only place of its kind in Reading.

Kevin:
On arrival, there is an atmosphere of calm and a reassuring welcome, which encourages trust, safety and confidentiality. This, in due course, results in discussion about personal mental health problems.

What makes Reading Your Way special?

Jenny:
Firstly, the people; the members, the staff, the Peer Supporters.  Secondly it’s a place where we are accepted as we are, not defined by our diagnoses or our mental health histories.  Thirdly, what we gain by seeing the progress of other members when they move on, become peer supporters, get jobs etc.

Why did you decide to take action to save the service?

Andrew:
I felt largely recovered and I felt I had a moral duty to defend the organisation so it could continue to help those more unwell than myself. I also wanted the staff to keep their jobs.

Tina:
Because to lose Reading Your Way would have had a big impact on service users’ mental health. We all need each other to keep on an even level.

Kevin:
Because I saw a service that really made a difference to vulnerable people's lives. Initial rumours about the possible closure of the service were already causing disquiet, I felt I could help.

Why did you decide to take action to save the service?
How did you feel when your efforts paid off?

Chris:
Joy, relief. I thought: ‘thank god’.

Howard:
Elated and happy, it was a weight off my shoulders. No more sleepless nights.

Tina:
So pleased, but a feeling that we must put in actions to not let this happen again.

How did you feel when your efforts paid off?

Kevin:
A palpable feeling of achievement knowing that our collective voice had impact and had helped restore stability.

Jenny:
Relieved mainly, but also proud of myself and the other Reading Your Way members and staff who had helped convince the council and CCG.

Our main strategy was to put faces to the service so that we were no longer just anonymous figures on a spreadsheet, and I think we succeeded in that.  We also proved that even though many of us have serious problems, we are still prepared to fight for what we value.

Our community support services helped more than 2,000 people a month work towards meaningful goals

silhouette icon of a person jumping
The service has established itself as a vital resource in the area and there is a strong sense of community amongst those who use it. We saw this really clearly when the Service User Action Group raised their voices to support the service against the proposed closure. I know our team of staff and volunteers have been really motivated and inspired by their passion and they have worked diligently to support people through this period of uncertainty. 


Andrew Farquhar, Operations and Development Manager for our Your Way Services

Making ideas a reality - our service user involvement grant scheme

At Together, we strive to make sure 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. One of our initiatives to support this aim is a grant scheme that enables people to apply for funding to develop service user involvement and leadership projects and ideas across the organisation.

This year:

  • Grants were awarded to 20 successful initiatives.
  • We awarded an average amount of around £600 per proposal.

Highlights from the year:

  • A grant to support a person who uses Hastings Your Way who wanted to promote the work of artists who have lived experience of mental health by recording a CD and publishing a short book of creative writing.
  • Lawn Court in Bexhill received a grant to help keep their sports club up and running and organise tournaments for their members.
  • A grant to improve an allotment project in Swale. The project was already running and many service users were involved, but new equipment was needed to maintain the allotment and make sure we could continue to offer this activity.
  • We supported the set up of a therapeutic arts group. This was applied for by the individual service user who would be leading the project, but with a view to involving a great number of people who access Swale Your Way.

We supported more than 4,500 people each month in all our services in 2016-17