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Transforming services to transform lives: Mental health charity launches new art exhibition to mark national revamp to services

Posted on 26, June 2012

To highlight the roll-out of its new and improved services mental health charity Together opens its latest exhibition Transformation which features work from service users who have used art to interpret their personal transformation on the path to wellbeing.

The charity is embracing the opportunities for change offered by the government’s rapidly evolving personalisation agenda, to re-evaluate and transform both its community and residential services.  Using its 133 years of experience in working alongside individuals experiencing mental health issues Together has come up with its own answers to personalisation.

Over the next year the organisation aims to update over 20 of its services to embody new ways of working that further instil its belief that service users can and should lead their journey towards living independent, ordinary lives. A fundamental feature underlying all updates will be Together’s belief in the value of peer support and in time, the charity aims to train and employ peer supporters across all of its transformed services.

At the forefront of Together’s transformation work is Your Way, an innovative model that offers flexible, tailor-made, community based support to meet both individual’s needs and those of local commissioners. Following a successful pilot last year, where two of Together’s resource centres in Wandsworth were re-vamped using the Your Way approach, the charity received some funding from the Department of Health to support its national roll-out and full evaluation. By March next year Together aims to have transformed 12 more day services into Your Way projects.

Sian Wynne, National Your Way development manager at Together explains: Your Way is our solution to making the transition to personalisation really work for service users by bringing genuine meaning to self-directed support. We always start with a conversation and a blank piece of paper; nothing is pre-determined and anything is possible. Having this open attitude to what people might want means they can really take the lead.

Your Way is our solution to making the transition to personalisation really work for service users by bringing genuine meaning to self-directed support. We always start with a conversation and a blank piece of paper; nothing is pre-determined and anything is possible”

“We also have a community focus – we don’t confine support to a building or ‘centre’ but make sure it is always available in an informal, local setting to help people re-connect with their local area and be as independent as possible.”

Michelle, aged 36, is a contributing artist to the Transformation exhibition and a Wandsworth Your Way service user. As such she has first-hand experience of the service’s transformation having also used it when it was a resource centre.

Michelle says about the transition to Your Way:

The change was frightening but it helped me learn to talk to people, go out in public and to find a way forward in my life. Now, I meet my Your Way worker Peter, in the community and we go for coffee. He talks to me like a friend and I don’t feel intimidated or looked down upon but like a real person; ‘normal’ almost”

He has supported me to get back into my painting and to study art and now I am doing a ceramics course. I also love making jewellery and would eventually like to grow this into a small business. I was always scared before. I never thought someone like me could do something like this. I am currently coming off my anti-depressants and I feel like I finally have a purpose”.

Together now wants to apply the ethos of Your Way to the transformation of its residential services  – currently aimed at individuals with severe and enduring mental health needs – and has devised a similar model to bring personalisation into this setting. For example, a key element of the model includes a ‘recovery voucher system’ where service users can use their vouchers to plan and book-in specific activities or time with staff, to fulfil a specific goal within their personal recovery plan.  This aims to prepare individuals to eventually progress to the use of a personal budget once they move on to independent living.

The charity is also extending its offering, at some residences, to provide support for individuals with complex needs and a history of offending. These individuals will be coming from ‘out of area’ placements at high and medium secure units and the new model has also been designed to cater for the specific needs of this group.

This model is currently being piloted and evaluated and to begin with will be rolled out across 11 residential services over the next year.

Michael Smith, Transformation Lead at Together said: “We want to update our services to offer individuals a clear, step-by-step path of progression from 24 hour residential support to independent living in their local community.

To do this we need to offer the kind of service which enables people to set and monitor their own goals and move forward in their lives; so that in effect, by doing less for people – you are actually doing more.”

“We would especially like to make this way of working accessible to individuals with ‘high-level’ support needs. They will often come from very restrictive settings outside of their locality, where they have little or no control or choice over the support they receive and usually have nowhere to move on to. We want to support these individuals to move back into their local communities.”

The Transformation exhibition runs from 27 June – 31 August and is open Monday – Friday 10.30am – 5pm at The Together Our Space Gallery: 12 Old Street, London EC1V. Admission is free. Nearest tube is Barbican.

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Robyn Clark, PR & Marketing officer at Together, Tel: 0207 780 7376/07734 870 065 or Email: robyn-clark@together-uk.org