by Kate Linhart, consultant social worker at Hertfordshire Partnership Trust
The motivation for my 85 mile ‘Tour de Care Act’ came from a need to create greater awareness of the new Care Act 2014 within my mental health trust. E-learning and policy updates just didn’t hit the spot so I decided to undertake a two wheeled tour of 10 facilities across Hertfordshire to help spread the word.
I believe it is important to encourage staff to take ownership of their learning from the outset given the Act’s increased emphasis on accountability in professional decision making. Cycling seemed a novel way to engage people’s imagination and link events together by way of a journey.
‘Each event focused on a different aspect of the Act’
Our teams used their own strengths and resources and worked alongside service users, carers and partner agencies to co-produce local events. Each event focused on a different aspect of the Act and I stopped off to lend my support at each location.
The Tour de Care Act got underway at 7.45am on April 1 after I received information, advice and signposting from our sing point of access team in St Albans. A tough 17 miles later I was greeted in Stevenage by colleagues from Hertfordshire County Council, our local authority partner, to promote partnership working and Integration. We have worked closely in the last 18 months so it was a big day for us.
After a short hop across town I joined our community team who provide care and treatment for people with depression, anxiety and personality disorders. They were promoting the wellbeing principle, the underpinning principle of the Care Act.
I headed off to Welwyn Garden City where they hosted an event on personalised care and support planning including transitions for young people. I met some young people with lived experience who have given valuable insights into how services can be improved including the greater need for information, support and joined up care during the transition between children’s and adult mental health services.
‘I was greeted by a welcome party’
I popped in to our learning and development centre in nearby Hatfield and found one of our managing directors completing his Care Act e-learning. After a quick photo and a tweet I headed off to our acute services at Kingfisher Court, a new £42m mental health facility.
Kingfisher Court is an extraordinary place in the countryside near Radlett. I was greeted by a welcome party and was given a well-earned coffee. The focus at Kingfisher was on promoting service users’ voice, participation and the role of advocates. I also met a service user helping to promote advocacy who insisted we include my bike in my tweet with the memorable line “it is all about the bike.”
An uphill journey to Borehamwood to join our Community team in a Q&A session on equal rights for carers. Then to Watford to look at making safeguarding personal. This 10 mile stretch saw me beat my colleague Maddy who had been supporting the tour in her car, albeit she did stop to get me a sandwich.
‘Enthusiasm of staff made it a great day’
I was feeling it in my legs as I skirted the Chilterns to Hemel Hempstead and had a succession of hills before a 20 minute pit-stop to support the targeted treatment team’s communities event. I got a bit lost and had to use a ‘community navigator’ – a woman feeding her horse – to ask for directions.
The end was in sight. A quick stop-over in St Albans for a debate about citizenship left me with a 10 minute push back to where I started in the morning. I was warmly welcomed by the SPA team. Finally, I was re-signposted to the local fish and chip shop where I enjoyed some food and recovery with my team who supported me throughout the day.
I feel great optimism for the Care Act being a platform for promotion of individual and community strengths and active citizenship. The focus of social inclusion is often a benefit to the individual in terms of their recovery and social functioning.
However communities can also gain from being more inclusive. People with experience of mental illness bring a richness of emotional experience, sensitivity and personal strength gained from their journey that can be a valuable resource for any community.
On reflection “Tour de Care Act” started as a bit of fun. But staff’s enthusiasm made it a great day and a creative way of sharing learning and communicating a serious message regarding the journey ahead of us.