Excellence Network 2009 User Involvement category

The Excellence Network recognises achievement in social care. Honoured teams will be invited to the presentation at this year’s Community Care LIVE on 13 May. Here, we present the honoured teams in the USER INVOLVEMENT category

Organisation: Papworth Trust

Project: Foundations for Living

Client group Disability

Location: Cambridgeshire

Disabled tenants living in residential care have been involved in every stage of the planning and building of their new independent accommodation as part of the Foundations for Living project.

The project, run by the disability support service provider the Papworth Trust, was set up to address the social isolation some residents were facing by being housed in rural Cambridgeshire.

Residents helped to choose a suitable location and were supported to express their views by staff and independent advocates, with one tenant sitting on the project management team. Involving tenants from the outset enabled the builders to include requirements for bathroom design, hoists and alarms.

A total of 24 residents moved into the accommodation spread over three sites and interspersed with flats available to the public. They can still use personal care and community support services.

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Judge’s comments

“An ambitious and widely inclusive project, which proves that service users can work successfully with partners to improve the quality of their lives, and to reduce their dependency on others.”

Simon Heng, disability writer and activist

Organisation: Dorset Council/Dorset PCT

Project: Dorset Partnership for Older People

Client group: Older people

Older people are helping to shape the way services are provided as part of the Dorset Partnership for Older People’s Project (Popp).

The partnership between the council, primary care trust, older people and the voluntary sector aims to keep older people living in their homes for as long as they wish. The Popp has a leadership programme which employs primarily older people, to work with service providers and older clients to identify gaps in service delivery.

Older people are also employed as wayfinders to provide support and signposting to any service that affects older people. The strategic board includes older people and a community initiatives commissioning fund that finances local initiatives is led by older people. Volunteers, all aged over 50, are now helping to measure the Popps impact.

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Judge’s comments

“This is a comprehensive, far-reaching project led by older people. Their involvement is embedded all the way through and has led to new initiatives with excellent outcomes. It is cross-cutting and has made a big impact.”

Annie Stevenson, head of older people’s services, Social Care Institute for Excellence

Organisation: South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Project: Prison In-reach Service

Client group: Mental health/substance misuse

The service works across six prisons in the area and provides assessment and treatment – including the transfer of people with severe mental health problems to the wider NHS and interventions for those with mental health problems while in custody.

To emulate the work of colleagues in community mental health teams, the service brings carers into the process. Prisoners with mental health problems are asked to identify their carers and with permission, they are contacted and involved in care plans.

Links are made with local services to provide carers with an assessment of their own needs if required. Inmates are also linked to community services they can use when leaving prison.

“It was recognised that carers were ‘left out of the loop’ when someone came into prison,” says project social worker Jane Whitfield.

Judge’s comments

“Carers are often excluded from decision-making in mental health care so it was really heartening to see this example of involvement from a prison mental health setting.”

Paul Jenkins, chief executive, Rethink

ORGANISATION Staffordshire University

Project: Service Users and Carers Group

Client group: Older people

Carers and service users are helping to improve the communication skills of trainee social workers at Staffordshire University.

The Service Users and Carers Group (SUCG) at the university leads the communication skills training for first-year social work students as part of their skills for social work practice module.

Each student receives two 30-minute role-play interviews with two service users or carers via telephone and face-to-face. Oral and written feedback is then given to the students to help them improve their active listening skills.

The SUCG received training themselves in leadership skills, feedback skills and video-recording technology. SUCG members are now able to assess students’ performance as part of the end of year fitness-to-practise assessment.

“The students have valued the feedback given to them by the SUCG members who themselves have felt they were contributing something very worthwhile,” says Bernard Moss, professor of social work education and spirituality.

Judge’s comments

“Wonderfully innovative and creative. I’m convinced that those learning will learn best from understanding users’ and carers’ stories.”

Annie Stevenson, head of older people’s services, Social Care Institute for Excellence

Organisation: Highland Community Care Forum

Project: Highland Young Carers Project

Client group: Children and families

Location: Western Scotland

Isolated young carers in the Highlands have helped to design their own framework of support as part of the Highland Young Carers Project. Highland Council and NHS Highland asked the project to produce a strategy to provide an integrated service for families and reduce inappropriate caring roles for children.

Young carers, who in the Highlands are often rurally isolated and socially excluded, were consulted via postal questionnaires, focus groups and one-to-one meetings. The opinions and experiences of young carers are now going to form part of the integrated children’s services plan for the Highlands and a strategy group is being formed to push forward its implementation.

“Using the voices of young carers is empowering and is an important catalyst for change,” says Frances Nixseaman, the project strategy development officer.

Judge’s comments

“This was a hugely impressive piece of work showing what can be done with very little where there is determination.”

Clare Tickell, chief executive, Action for Children

Organisation: Leonard Cheshire Disability

Project: Service User Support Team

Client: group Disability

Location: Wiltshire (base) and nationwide

Disabled people are being trained and supported to influence their care and lobby for change by the Service User Support Team (Sust) at Leonard Cheshire Disability.

All service users supported by the charity are members of the Service Users Networking Association, an independent organisation representing their views.

Sust helps service users gain the skills and confidence to participate fully in the networking association and in all aspects of Leonard Cheshire, in areas such as staff recruitment, policymaking, inspection and governance.

Disabled trainers run courses including empowerment, self advocacy, money management and developing a user group. Service users are also offered one-to-one mentoring.

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Judge’s comments

“Aimed at people who have been all too often neglected because they are so hard to reach, this project shows that service users can always be involved, given suitable opportunities.”

Simon Heng, disability writer and activist

Organisation: Hackney Independent Living Team

Project: Get Up and Go

Client group: Learning disability

Location: North east London

People with learning disabilities in Hackney and surrounding boroughs are working towards a healthier lifestyle by accessing sports and exercise through Hackney Independent Living Team’s (Hilt) Get Up and Go project.

The project supports service users to identify and attend mainstream and specialist sports. Service users have joined swimming, cycling, street jazz, gym sessions and walking groups through the project.

Get Up and Go also encourages service users to take control of their own health by setting up and running sporting activities. A team has been formed by service users to play in league games of Boccia, a sport for wheelchair users.

One service user volunteers at swimming sessions for disabled people and is set to start training to become a swimming coach. A further two service users are now trained and paid walk group leaders.

Project co-ordinator, Kobi Edward, says: “Once the service users had ownership of the project it motivated them to take part and encourage their peers too.”

Judge’s comments

“Hilt identified a real need – improving the health of people with learning disabilities – and inspired people to participate, but then stepped back to enable them to genuinely lead the project with outstanding success

Su Sayer, chief executive, United Response

Published in 30 April 2009 Community Care

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