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Celebrating the past and future of service user involvement and leadership at Together

Posted on 01, March 2019

In February 2019, Together for Mental Wellbeing held a Celebration of Service User Involvement and Leadership. This event, which took place in London, marked the coming to an end of our Service User Involvement Directorate in its existing form, celebrated the achievements of the Directorate over the past 15 years, and looked to the future and the next chapter of Together’s service user involvement and leadership journey.

You can read more about these changes – and the rationale behind them – in a blog by Linda Bryant, our Chief Executive.

Building on the legacy of the Directorate, and with the support of the remaining experienced and passionately committed team, service user involvement and leadership will continue to be a core priority of Together – ensuring that people who use our services continue to be at the centre of all that we do.

Our Celebration of Service User Involvement and Leadership was a wonderful opportunity to commend the Directorate’s achievements over the years – and those who have helped make them happen – and to share Together’s vision for service user involvement and leadership for the future.

We were fortunate enough to hear from many people on the day who described what service user involvement and leadership at Together has meant to them, and will mean in the future:

Linda Bryant, Together’s Chief Executive, introduced Together’s draft strategy for 2019-2024 and spoke about the ambitions to ensure that every single person using a Together service would be involved in leading their own care and support and helping to shape every aspect of the organisation. She also spoke about the need for Together to empower the collective voice of service users within the organisation – to share their experiences in order to inform and influence policy and practice in the external world.

Angela Newton photoAngela Newton, as the outgoing Director of Service User Involvement at Together and an integral member of the team since its early days, wanted to ensure that key people were brought together to reflect on our shared successes and look to the future.

Angela spoke about the hundreds – if not thousands – of people who had made the work of the Directorate possible. The people who had generously shared their experiences of dark, painful and distressing times to inform and influence not just our work, but that of the wider mental health sector; the people who had shown us that lived experience could and should lead the way; and the people who will be around to guide and support the next phase of our work in this critical area.

Anne Beales, former Director of Service User Involvement at Together, emphasised the importance of the heritage of the survivor movement and of working in partnership. She touched on the innovative “wellbeing approach to involvement”, as well as Together’s role in supporting the National Survivor User Network and Interrelate, an international mental health survivor coalition.

Kim Radford, one of our Trustees and member of our National Service User Steering Group who has also used Together’s services, described how Together was different from other mental health services she had interacted with. She explained how the organisation was able to “see what was inside of me, not what was wrong with me” and ultimately change her life in a variety ways, including meeting her husband.

Nigel Moyes, who has used Together’s services, cited the date of his first Together regional steering group as a pivotal part of his life and a start on his road to recovery. Nigel likened Together to being his “extended family” and outlined how the organisation was instrumental in him being able to move forward in his life.

Rudolph Douglas, who currently lives at one of Together’s services, detailed how useful the training he had been on through Together’s Service User Involvement Directorate has been in improving his education on issues such as diversity, stigma and discrimination. He also spoke about how his involvement with Together had gotten him to where he is today and given him the confidence to seek employment.

Together’s Service User Involvement team

Our dedicated team of staff also shared their thoughts on their work in service user involvement and peer support at Together going forward:

Mandy Chainey photoMandy Chainey, Service User Involvement Manager:

“…although the Directorate may be closing its doors, I will still be part of Together and I promise to keep working hard in ensuring that the voice of service users is heard now and in the future.”

 

Jess Worner photoJess Worner, Peer Support Practice Manager:

“I’m proud to say that, through the collective work of so many people with lived experience, peer support in Together continues to be peer-led, and it will continue to be going forward.”

You can read Jess’s moving speech in full here.

 

Nick Povey, Service User Involvement Worker: “I hope to continue making positive and creative contributions to the development of service user involvement and leadership, in a way that is guided by service users themselves.”

Jackie Hardy, Peer Support Involvement Worker: “Although the Directorate will not exist in name, we are still a team and so is everyone who works with us.”

Brett Sharpe, Service User Involvement Administrator: “It has been an absolute pleasure working alongside my fellow staff members in the Directorate and the service users I have been able to help out. Although this will now happen outside the structure of the Directorate, I look forward to doing more of the same.”

Looking to the future

The Celebration was also a valuable opportunity for people to share their views about the Vision, Purpose and Goals of Together’s new five-year strategy for 2019-2024 and to hear what came to the minds of service users, staff, volunteers and Trustees at the event.

Below are some comments on our new organisational Purpose that particularly resonated:

• “Give opportunity”
• “Being listened to”
• “Taking ownership of our lives and journey”
• “Feeling empowered to make changes”
• “Feeling valued”
• “Not be alone”
• “Better mental wellbeing for everyone”

Together would like to extend its sincerest thanks to all the staff, service users, Trustees, volunteers and countless others – both past and present – who have so inspiringly led Together’s work in service user involvement and leadership and peer support over the years, and whose passion and commitment will continuing to do so going forward. We look forward to taking this next exciting step with you all.