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Introducing our definitions of service user leadership and lived experience and our new values

Posted on 25, February 2020

Our core principle at Together is service user leadership. This means we work alongside people who use our services so they can lead on their own support. We believe service user leadership not only benefits people who are accessing support; those collective voices also have a positive impact on all aspects of Together, and wider society.

A key element of service user leadership is the power of lived experience of mental distress. We believe that people’s personal knowledge is hugely valuable in establishing the best way to support them and empower them to make their own choices. We listen to people who have a range of views and who have experienced mental distress in different ways, evolving our services and support to ensure we meet their particular needs and learning from the collective voice. People’s lives will have been affected in ways that are unique and we hope to learn from their insights and inform our practice in Together through that lived experience perspective.

Because these terms are at the heart of our work at Together we worked with our service users and teams to clearly define them and developed the following definitions:

Our definition of service user leadership is as follows:

Our definition of lived experience is:

Our value statement and values

As part of developing Together’s 2019-2024 Strategy, we reviewed and refreshed our organisational values. The process of developing our new values began in 2017 when feedback from our Investors in People Accreditation and a survey through our internal bulletin identified some ambiguity experienced by staff around our existing values. Further testing with managers concurred with this experience and it was decided that Together would undertake focus groups with service users, staff, volunteers and trustees to agree a way forward.

From the results of the focus groups and incorporating conclusions from strategy work done with the support of the Centre of Charity Effectiveness at CASS Business School, we established common themes and found that we could streamline our existing 7 values into 4 adapted values. We also discovered an important theme, highlighted by our service user focus group and created a new value, ‘Collaboration: achieving together’. Throughout the process of developing these values we ensured there were representatives from a range of our services and respective service users that reflected the practice within all of our services.

Our final value statement and set of 5 values for Together are as follows:

Our value statement

Value statement

Our values

Collaboration: achieving together

“If you have any concerns, they are quick to listen and will act accordingly. On a more personal note, they have helped me in my recovery by getting me connected with local services.”
Service user at Hopewell House, supported accommodation scheme

  • We work with communities, advocating and increasing awareness of the interests that matter most to service users.
  • We utilise the knowledge, skills and experience of everybody to achieve the best outcomes.
  • We create meaningful internal and external connections to ensure everyone can access the support they require.
  • We actively raise awareness of mental wellbeing and the benefits of service user leadership, supporting people to participate in local society.

Choice: through involvement

“I am very grateful to all at Together’s Elva Court Accommodation Service for investing in me, and seeing my strengths and skills over and above my diagnosis and my history.”
Jess, service user, Elva Court Accommodation Service

  • We champion knowledge gained through lived experience and embrace the positive impact this brings on creating options and supporting choice.
  • We work with compassion, respect and creativity to encourage people to solve problems and find solutions.
  • We listen and empathise to understand the issues that matter to people, in order to support their choices and aspirations.
  • We are responsive and empowering, focusing on what can be achieved.

Integrity: doing what we say

“I love working with the Advocate and I always know she will be honest whether we want to hear it or not. She is always passionate about making sure a person’s rights are respected and I really value her opinion and approach.”
Clinical Psychiatric Nurse on Advocacy Together Hub Knowsley

  • We create trusting relationships and environments by considering the whole person, individual situations and not over-promising.
  • We are fair, reliable, open-minded, punctual and agree realistic expectations, which we are trusted to deliver.
  • We ensure that we always say what we mean.
  • We communicate with consistency and clarity.
  • We are committed to making decisions transparently.

Resilience: never giving up on people

“Being involved with York Pathways has saved me in more ways than I thought was possible. They gave me hope when I had none and they have done everything in their power to help me to stay well.”
Sophie, Service User, York Pathways

  • We care passionately about empowering people to use their knowledge and experiences to lead their journeys to better wellbeing.
  • We use flexible and innovative approaches to achieve goals.
  • We are brave and resolute when facing challenges.
  • We don’t let people’s future be defined by their past.
  • We are passionate about everyone’s access to better wellbeing and hold the hope for a better future.

Continuous improvement: Learning and evolving

“I am very grateful that people are now recognising my conditions (ASD) which had previously been ignored by other professionals and I feel that I am now receiving support. You helped be to be heard at last.”
Service User, Advocacy Together Hub Knowsley

  • We are curious and deeply inquisitive about people and our work.
  • We consider the whole-person and recognise that genuine interest in each person enables us to support people with their aspirations.
  • We create a safe environment for people to be who they want to be.
  • We are conscious of our actions, decisions, and their impact.
  • We actively seek and learn from feedback and make changes to deliver the best we can.