Find out more about Service User Leadership

Service user leadership and valuing lived experience has been a long-standing ethos of Together as an organisation.

Find out more about Service User Leadership

The value and importance of working alongside people with lived experience of mental distress has been recognised and established within the mental health field for many years. At Together, we have proudly adopted this approach throughout the history of delivering our services, meaning that service user leadership has been a long-standing ethos of our organisation.

Since it’s beginning, Together has had a dedicated team to support and enable our workforce to embed this approach into everything we do; from the development of our models and policies, and throughout our day-to-day practice.

Our unique approach to working alongside people with lived experience of mental distress has continued to evolve over the years as the external landscape of what is recognised as the most valuable and effective way of doing so continues to grow and develop. Historically, Together has supported a service user involvement approach which continues to be an incredibly useful and widely recognised model for working alongside those with lived experience of mental distress. However, we made the decision to build on the service user involvement foundation by transitioning towards service user leadership. This means that we give people choice and agency in leading decisions around their own care, as well as decisions that directly improve the design and delivery of services as a whole.

With this in mind, Together developed the following definition of service user leadership that reflects our commitment to how we work alongside people with lived experience of mental distress:-

Service user leadership empowers people to make choices that affect their lives, lead their journey to wellbeing on their own terms and to collectively influence and improve services, organisations and society.

Furthermore, we define lived experience as:-

A person who has experienced mental distress, and who can draw on their unique knowledge and personal insights to connect with others, influencing and informing from a lived experience perspective.

At Together we work directly alongside the people that use our services, and people with lived experience of mental distress, so that the decisions we make reflect the wants and needs of the people who use them, and those within their wider communities.  We recognise that through utilising the breadth of knowledge and experience of our most valuable stakeholders, the people who use our services, we are in a much better position to successfully deliver services that will meet both the ongoing and emerging needs of those who we work alongside and future people seeking our support.

Our workforce, both in operational settings supporting people directly in our services and our central support staff, work in collaboration to ensure that the commitment and dedication to service user leadership is embedded into the cultural life of the organisation. This approach will support Together in meeting our service user leadership ambitions:-

Our values at Together are at the core of how we approach our work, whether in frontline services or central support services.  In addition, Together has developed a set of service user leadership principles that compliment our values and hold equal importance in underpinning the work that we do.

  • We create safe spaces that allow the lived experience voice to be amplified
  • We support people to find meaningful connections in order to grow and succeed
  • We find creative ways of working together that enable us to learn from each other and promote the benefits of service user leadership


  • We ensure that we are inclusive by increasing diversity and reducing stigma
  • We ensure that an individual’s physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological needs are considered in all interactions
  • We ensure that opportunities are accessible, enabling lived experience to be at the centre of decision making


  • We strive to build collective responses and consensus in solutions through clear governance structures
  • We work in partnership, ensuring we promote equality of power and mutual respect
  • We adopt clear and consistent communication; allowing individuals to make well informed decisions associated with their care or the care of others


  • We focus on an individual’s strengths supporting people to develop their insights, skills and potential
  • We see people as people, not their diagnosis and recognise strength in vulnerability
  • We create meaningful opportunities that promote collaboration and increase individual wellbeing
At Together we are proud of the initiatives and mechanisms that we have in place to enable an authentic and meaningful approach to working alongside people with lived experience of mental distress.
  • Our Model of Peer Support at Together is a prime example of service user leadership in practice. To find out more you can read about our peer support model, or to read about how that is applied in our services go to peer support in practice.
  • The National Service User Steering Group (NSG) has been a part of Together for Mental Wellbeing since 2014 and continues to grow and develop in the present day. to learn about the NSG and its members please click here.
  • The Together Service User Leadership Grant Scheme is also a fantastic opportunity for any person using our services, volunteers or staff members to apply for a grant that directly supports the implementation or development of service user leadership locally. This could be through developing a project that amplifies the voices of people with lived experience, or an opportunity that supports people using our services to develop skills or become more integrated into their local communities.

If you would like to find out more information about service user leadership at Together, please contact:-

Sophie Howell
Head of Service User Leadership
Together for Mental Wellbeing
52 Walnut Tree Walk
SE11 6DN

Tel: 07566 783229