I have attended the Voice4 Choices meeting for the past 3 years as a service user. I was involved with the V4C from the start of process as I was going to the meetings held in middlesbrough and now instead of been a service user I have recently become a full member of the voices 4 choices gang.
I attended the last strategy group in September and was asked if I would do a presentation on my involvement within secure services. I was happy to do this so did my presentation in front of the group and it was great as I am used to doing presentations in front of a lot of people.
This meeting was excellent and also feel that it is good for my recovery journey it is good that I am involved with the team and look forward to continue given my input and may have some goood ideas to bring back to them.
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Voices for Choices are an independent user and carer led organisation in South Tees. Our aim is to make sure that services in south Teesside listen to mental health service users and carers and consider their needs. At the moment we are looking at welfare advice services.
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Notes from Voices for Choices Advocacy and Advice Working Group
31st August 2017. Middlesbrough and Stockton Office at Redcar.
• Alan Williams, Voices for Choices Strategy Group chair
• Andrea Gent, Stamp Revisited
• Catherine Layton, Voices for Choices member
• Jean Warburton, Redcar CAB
• Mary Booth, Voices for Choices Strategy Group member
• Mark Burns, Voices for Choices Engagement worker
• Vicky Fennimore, Voices for Choices member
The group introduced themselves.
Alan Williams agreed to be chair. Mark Burns offered to take the minutes.
Mark Burns also presented the group with a summary of the work so far. This was around interviewing commissioners and providers about advice and advocacy services. The next stage is to interview users of these services with a lived experience and/or their carers. People who would benefit from using these services but haven’t may also be questioned This work is to be substantially completed by October 25th. To fit in with this date it was decided to only focus on welfare advice services.
The group decided that the best option was to produce a questionnaire that could be given out to sympathetic agencies. This would be short. It would be important to be clear whether answers were from people from Middlesbrough or Redcar & Cleveland.
It was suggested that members of the group contact groups where they already had personal links. There would also need to be a gap analysis to see whether there were any key groups that were missing that needed to be approached.
The group discussed possible dates for future meetings but in the end Mark Burns agreed to send out potential times when he got back to the office.
Voices for Choices (V4C) is an independent, service user and carer led group, which supports and promotes the active participation and inclusion of people with lived experience of mental distress and carers in the design, commissioning, delivery and evaluation of services and influencing policy development. V4C supports service user and carer involvement to benefit individuals by providing opportunities to improve services and their own care, as well as building skills, self-esteem and promoting resilience and networks. The group is currently funded by South Tees CCG and Middlesbrough Council. Our structure currently consists of:
• A Membership of service users and carers who receive information from V4C and take part in activities such as training, consultations, working groups and events depending on their level of interest and ability to take part
• A Forum of service users and carers identifying and discussing issues important to them, in a safe and supportive environment open to all members
• A Strategy Group of service users and key partners responsible for developing, implementing and monitoring V4C activities and recruited through the forum
66 members, 23 active members, 6 service user and carer strategy group members
Quarterly Forum Topics 2017
January – The Government Green Paper on Work Health and Disability, Middlesbrough
Presentation on the Green Paper – Alisdair Cameron, Launchpad
Discussion The binary model described in the green paper is unhelpful and unrealistic. People are not either fit or unfit for work, good health is not a direct result of work and poor health is not the direct result of work. The green paper lays the responsibility for wellness and being in work on the individual. Returning to employment should be a gradual process e.g. through volunteering, support, IPS, flexible hours, being better off in work.
April – Working with Commissioners to improve service provision, Middlesbrough
Presentations on commissioning – Mark Burdon, S.Tees CCG and Outreach Service – Heather Jackson, Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind
Discussion Key themes were a need for alternatives to medication and formal services (e.g. Recovery College model), availability of social support, housing and welfare benefits being as important as clinical interventions. There was also an element of confusion and lack of knowledge over what services were available and who they were open to.
July – Availability of Advice and Advocacy for people with Mental Health Conditions, Redcar
Presentations on Advice and Advocacy in S.Tees – Alan Williams, V4C, Welfare Advice – Karen Coles, Redcar Council, Advocacy – Louise, Tees Advocacy Hub, Peer Support and Advice – Fraser, The Lodge
Discussion Availability and access to advice and mental health access is a growing issue. Early access would resolve issues more quickly but people with more complex issues require intensive and long-term support; both should be available and well resourced. There is a need for more general advocacy and more support and development for self and peer advocacy.
October – Recent Experience of Mental Health Crisis Services
Forum takes place on Wednesday 25th October at St Mary’s Centre, Middlesbrough
Strategy Group Makes decisions on and monitors working groups and activities undertaken by workers and volunteers.
Working to establish Voices for Choices as a key means by which the interests of mental health service users are heard by commissioners and providers in South Tees, develop the governance structure and identify future funding.
Advice and Advocacy Working Group Time limited working group of Strategy Group members, service users and carers and invited professionals that reports to the Strategy Group and feeds back to the forum. Currently engaged in developing a survey to gauge service users experience of welfare advice across S. Tees
CIO Constitution Working Group Members were tasked with developing a constitution following the decision of the Strategy Group to pursue charitable status using the structure of a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. The constitution is due to be finalised and agreed at the November Strategy Group meeting.
Time to Change Training This was delivered in partnership with the national Time to Change campaign to enable people with lived experience of mental health problems to challenge stigma and discrimination by social contact.
World Mental Health Day: Alright Teesside Voices for Choices is a partner and will host a stall and workshop exploring what people value in terms of mental health support and why.
Website, social media, newsletter Information about the group, membership, opportunities, events and meetings as well as minutes and feedback are available on the Voices for Choices website and shared across social media.