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Together publishes findings from a three-year evaluation exploring the benefits of personalised community mental health support

Posted on 14, May 2015

YourWay_MASTER_NO_NAMETogether has today published the final report of a three-year independent evaluation by the Mental Health Foundation into the outcomes of its community mental health support.

Funded by the Department of Health, the evaluation was commissioned by Together to measure the effectiveness of Your Way, our model of personalised community support.

Your Way is a community-based mental health support service that works alongside people on their journey towards better wellbeing and increased independence. Individuals are supported to achieve goals they have set themselves through one-to-one support, peer support from other people who have experienced mental health issues, volunteering opportunities and support to build links across the local community.

The findings demonstrated increases in wellbeing in the first three months of service use for people who enrolled on the evaluation within a month of accessing Your Way, and there were significant improvements in relation to the following areas:

  • social support and relationships
  • finding a sense of meaning
  • relationships with health professionals

Themes arising from in-depth interviews with those using the service showed that Your Way helps people to expand their networks of social support and bring them out of isolation, and builds their confidence so that they can manage on their own in the community.

A costing comparison found that in many cases, Your Way can deliver support at lower costs than statutory equivalents, enabling them to deliver a greater variety of support. For example, in Wandsworth following the service transformation Together was able to reduce costs by more than £538,000 per annum, and, more importantly, enable a significantly higher number of people to move onto more positive outcomes.

On the basis of their findings, The Mental Health Foundation recommends:

  • That the Department of Health invests in the independent development of a Cost Benefit Analysis approach for innovative voluntary sector provision in mental health.
  • That the UK Government, service providers, research and representative organisations review the roll out of personal budgets across the country for people with mental health problems, including how the implementation of this policy impacts on the development of innovative self-directed support models and services.

Liz Felton, Chief Executive Officer, Together, said:

“At Together we are committed to ensuring that the people we support lead their own journey to wellbeing. When we designed our first Your Way service in 2010, we listened to those that would be using the service and developed an approach that supported them to live the life they want. Since then we have gone on to transform 20 community services and each one stands by our principle of putting individuals in control of their own support.

“The results of this evaluation show us what people have been telling us since we designed the Your Way model: that our approach is having a positive impact on people’s wellbeing and helping them to move towards independence. We hope that the results of this evaluation will support the provision of further personalised mental health services, as ultimately this will mean more people are better supported to live independent lives in their communities.”

To download the full report visit: www.together-uk.org/your-way-evaluation.

Case study

Rob, Service User, Lewes Your Way

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“It was my GP who told me about Together’s Lewes Your Way service. I had suffered from mental health issues for years. I was isolated and lonely; I could go for weeks without seeing anyone else. I wasn’t motivated at all and I was drinking too much. I felt really nervous about going along so I took my son with me the first time, but everyone was welcoming and I ended up readily sharing information about myself with others which was strange for me. I realised that my story wasn’t unusual and that was really reassuring.

“Your Way really changed my life; I probably wouldn’t be alive today without it. I was full of anger; I hated being ill and hated the fact that my illness has destroyed my life. I now had somewhere to go and talk with people who didn’t judge me—I was completely accepted and very quickly my sons noticed a change in my mood. I was also given the opportunity to have a say in the service. I sat on the interview panel for new staff and my opinions were listened to; I genuinely felt as though I was an equal part of the decision making.

“It was setting up the Recovery Kitchen though that really gave me purpose. When I was setting it up, the staff were helpful but pretty much left me to run it how I wanted. We started the kitchen from scratch—we organised the health inspector’s visit, wrote up the procedures and organised what we wanted the kitchen to do. I carried out research into nutrition and consulted with the Lewes Community Chef, who I knew through the Your Way manager and had previously helped train me.

“Everyone that knows me has seen a massive difference in me and my relationships with my kids are much better now. I am calmer, more tolerant and generally more pleasant to be around. I felt ready to get back to work I’m now employed by Together as a Support Worker.

“The service is really run Your Way. You’re helped to plan yourself out of illness and motivate yourself. If I’d been dictated to, it wouldn’t have worked for me. You do what benefits you and what you like. It gives you control back over yourself and it really worked for me.”