Michael, a Peer Support Worker at our Chichester service talks about his experience of loneliness to mark Mental Health Awareness Week and tips to help overcome feeling alone.
In this edition we’re focussing on our Employment services as part of our Employment services week on social media. Matt Webb, Communications and Marketing Officer speaks to Becky Ballentyne from our Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire (BANeS) Employment service about what her role as an Employment Advisor involves, her journey to becoming an Employment Advisor and how she finds working for a national mental health charity.
“Honestly, every day is completely different. On a Monday morning it’s admin, checking emails. We have a group meeting every Monday morning to catch up on our case loads, discuss any clients that are potentially in crisis, employer engagement which is going round to chat to various employers discussing any potential job vacancies, meeting clients face-to-face in the community, discussing their needs and expectations of the service, what kind of roles they’re looking for.” – Becky, Employment Advisor, BANeS Employment service.
Inspired by Becky? You can also make a difference by joining us at a leading mental health charity. Check out our latest vacancies on our online jobs portal at richmondfellowship.org.uk/jobs.
In January’s edition, Matt Webb, Communications and Marketing Officer speaks to Antonia Minkova from our Health and Wellbeing community about Winter Wellbeing and ways you can look after your mental health, post the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“For me, trying to be mindful and clearing my head from the clutter is a really useful way, because we really can get lost in our thoughts and maybe even our schedules and that encourages stress. So, finding a way to declutter is really great and if you use some meditation techniques, I think they really do help”. – Antonia, Leecroft House.
The month of January can be a difficult time of year for people, what with winter weather, the start of a new year and finances biting after the festive season. All too often we’ve started to see and hear the term Blue Monday being used to describe this particular Monday in January – packaging all these effects up and applying them to one day, and how people might be feeling.
As a leading mental health charity, we don’t believe Blue Monday is the best way to talk about mental health and wellbeing. As we all know, people experience mental ill health throughout the year, not just on one day. We do acknowledge that the winter can be particularly hard on people’s mental health though. So, we’re turning our social media and internal communications focus on Winter Wellbeing – today and through the rest of January.
Many of our services are for people experiencing severe mental ill health, often for people who need long term specialist support and help – maybe through our Crisis Services, or our Supported Housing. However, as a national mental health charity, we know that from time to time we all need to remind ourselves of the simple acts that can support our wellbeing. Basics that we could all be doing more often – particularly after a challenging two years when many of us may have not noticed the long-term impact a pandemic has had on our mental health.
One of our models to support recovery at Richmond Fellowship is Community Support, and we’ll be particularly drawing on their expertise this month. As we all know, having community around us that can help to lift us up is so important for our overall wellbeing. Our Community Support services work to limit social isolation and reach individuals experiencing mental ill health to help reconnect them with their communities. They’re tailored to the individual and work in multiple ways to deliver support. This could be either 1:1 support with day-to-day activities such as shopping and finance, or group support sessions with opportunities to volunteer, get outside and involved with local people.
“I could discuss my triggers with a staff member without feeling ashamed. His lived experience allowed me to become more confident in expressing myself and to feel less ashamed of my illness. I have never found this support anywhere else.”
Person we support
“I feel that every person should be given a chance to achieve things in their life, no matter how big or small. I enjoy building relationships with people we support and their families – this enables them to get the best support tailored for them.”
Community Link Advisor
Our community services and staff encourage the people we support to develop new skills and further their interests knowing the powerful impact that has on people’s wellbeing. For instance, at Our Time Community Support in Liverpool, Marshall, a person we support developed podcasting skills through his support from us. Marshall then featured on our very own RadioSparky Podcast to share his experience within our community support services and how the opportunities he had to develop his creative skills improved his mental health. You can find out more and listen to the RadioSparky podcast here.
“I feel our community services have a massive impact on the people we support. We give them hope and a purpose as we help them achieve small meaningful goals they set themselves. Our support is very service user led and we work with them to develop their own ideas into achievements.”
Community Link Advisor
So, as you can see our Community Support teams are experts in everyday wellness and mental health recovery – and this week and month we will be sharing their advice on wellbeing, particularly in the winter season, whether that’s how they facilitate wellbeing in their own lives or with the people we support.
In this edition to mark World Mental Health Day 2021; Matt Webb Communications and Marketing Officer speaks to Richmond Fellowship’s Director of Operations Robert Templeton about this year’s theme ‘mental health in an unequal world’ and what the charity is doing to ensure mental health provision is available for all.
“Our crisis beds cost as little as £171 per night and that’s compared to an average cost of at least £400 to a hospital bed, or even £500 a night for an out of area placement. We believe that these Crisis Houses and this type of provision really is something that has a real future in terms of meeting those increasing demands from people who are needing the types of services we provide”. – Robert Templeton, Director of Operations.
At Richmond Fellowship we are marking World Mental Health Day. The theme this year is ‘Mental health in an unequal world’. In our blog earlier today we touched on the inequities we see ahead in mental health support and how the pandemic has intensified people’s needs. We know that we are facing a difficult economic and employment situation in the UK post-pandemic, which will see more people with mental health needs requiring employment support. Our employment services are a key part of our work that can combat this developing situation. In our blog we touch on the need to keep the pressure on for services like our employment services to be scaled up quickly across the country so that we can effectively face this situation and support as many people as we can across the country.
Our Individual Placement Support (IPS) Employment Services specialise in providing support for people living with or recovering from mental ill health to find paid employment, voluntary work, education, and training or to retain their current employment. Our IPS employment advisors and specialists meet regularly with the people referred to us to not only find employment, but also develop a detailed and tailored work preference profile to ensure the work is suited to their needs. Throughout the pandemic our IPS employment services were able to help many people recovering from mental ill heath retain and find work, in what was and still is an uncertain time.
The impact of our IPS employment services is undeniable, this model of quality mental health support can have a life-changing impact on the people we support, as well as the environments they work in as we see in Zach’s story below. To show this to you, today we are sharing two recovery stories written from the perspective of our staff from our Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire IPS Employment Service.
The names in these two stories have been changed to protect the identity of the people we support.
The IPS employment specialist met Julie towards the end of the first lockdown. She had been afraid to go out, hadn’t worked for some time and had no confidence in herself. She found it hard to communicate with others due to not socialising for a long time. Initially, the employment specialist had phone calls and socially distanced walks with Julie. We came to learn how badly bullied she had been in previous corporate roles. She was very artistic and had a background in print and design and was keen to try this again. The employment specialist approached a small, family-based company in Somerset, who offered Julie an hour’s voluntary work a week. It wasn’t long before they were covering her travel expenses, wanting to give something back to reward her for the amazing work she was doing.
Shortly afterwards, the company offered her an apprenticeship. She has gone from working a few hours a week to doing 4 days a week and her confidence has grown. She now aspires for the future, and it is a joy to see how happy she is in finding a supportive employer.
The employment specialist has been working with Zach for over 18 months. In this time Zach has experienced a decline in his mental health while at work. However, by working closely with IPS, Zach has gained the confidence to remain in work.
Zach’s manager has worked closely with the IPS service to help support him within the workplace. He has requested mental health training from IPS for all employees, to allow them to have a greater understanding around mental health and how they can, not just support Zach but also each other. He has also requested extra training to learn more about Zach’s specific mental health diagnosis to help him understand how better to support Zach going forward.
Zach has stated that he would not be in work without the support that has been given to him from the IPS service and is grateful for the ongoing support.
Zach’s employer has stated that being supported by IPS has allowed them to better understand mental health within the work place which has inspired them to increase awareness and take a proactive stance within their company to support all employees to maintain good mental health.
As a result of the ongoing work with IPS and seeing the progress Zach has made, the employer has now stated they are willing to help other clients within the IPS service by offering them the opportunity to earn valuable skills to help them get back into the working environment by offering work experience in several departments within the company. Zach is going to help with the scheme and be a mentor to other clients once this scheme has been set up.
These stories are a positive example of mental health support having a huge impact on people and their daily lives. This World Mental Health Day we are calling for more of this specialist quality support, across the country. We know that it is needed, and for everyone who needs it, now more than ever.
In September’s edition to coincide with Recovery Focus Week, Matt Webb, Communications and Marketing Officer speaks to Vicki Pritchard, Service Manager of Richmond Fellowship’s Our Time service in Liverpool and Marshall, a person we support about a podcast series they’ve been producing in collaboration with the BBC.
Listen to the full series of ‘It’s About Time’ podcasts by clicking here.
“I was diagnosed very late in life in my 40s with Asperger’s and it really changed my life completely. It made me understand a lot of things in my life that had happened previously and why I couldn’t do the things I should’ve been able to do. Since then I’ve gone on to learn that Asperger’s is this wonderful gift that I’ve been given. I’ve always been creative and I’ve always been involved in performing and creative arts and through Richmond Fellowship, this podcasting and other courses with them, I’ve been able to do so many things that I’ve never done before”. – Marshall, person we support.
Richmond Fellowship’s Bath, Swindon and Wiltshire IPS Employment service has been recognised as a high fidelity service and has once again become a recognised Centre of Excellence in IPS Employment Practice across the local Clinical Commissioning group by the Centre for Mental Health.
Following expansion with Wave 2 and 3 IPS funding, the Wiltshire service has grown from 7 staff to 19 across the Bath, Swindon and Wiltshire areas.
The team has been working to achieve a Centre of Excellence status for the 2 new services, building on the Wiltshire service’s original award 3 years ago.
Speaking to the Service Manager Mariana Law; Jan Hutchinson, lead auditor from the Centre for Mental Health said:
“Your team are a really vibrant and energetic group who are providing great examples of their work. Also your NHS colleagues are speaking very highly of them. I am impressed.
I am left with the lasting impression that Richmond Fellowship has been fabulously successful in recruiting a special group of people who have the right skills, but also the right attitude and are willing to go ‘the extra mile’ for their clients on a regular basis”.
The service has supported a total of 132 clients into paid employment from April 2020 up to February 2021 and a further 19 clients to retain their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
There are currently 23 Centres of Excellence in England and Bath, Swindon and Wiltshire will now be one of these.
In March 2021’s edition, Matt Webb, Communications and Marketing Officer speaks to Joy Ridley for our Old Moat Garden Centre in Surrey about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected them and also finds out about their latest award. Matt also speaks to Deborah Low from Sparky’s Cafe in Blackpool about how they’ve adapted their social enterprise during the lockdowns and how they are preparing for their reopening to the public.
“The award reflects on everybody involved with the Old Moat, the whole Old Moat family. So the staff, the volunteers, the people we support and our customers. Everybody could take a bow.” – Joy, Fundraising and Events Officer, The Old Moat.
We are proud to be part of Recovery Focus – a group of charities providing specialist support services to individuals and families living with the effects of mental ill health, drug and alcohol use, gambling and domestic abuse. This week all our partner charities are highlighting the work and impact of #OurCommunityServices across the group.
We heard from Wiltshire RSI about what they’ve been up to and how they have responded to Covid-19 restrictions. Wiltshire RSI also shared some great testimonials from people they’ve supported as well as giving us some insight into what it’s like to work in a Community Service.
What has Wiltshire RSI been up to?
Wiltshire RSI have been working hard to ensure their community still feel connected during lockdown. They started the Lockdown Well-Being Challenge, which included four wellbeing goals per week of the November lockdown. They focused on bringing people together on their social media pages and online social group to share their achievements and creations during lockdown. Wiltshire RSI’s online social group has grown from strength to strength in the last 12 months. They were able to enjoy some in person and virtual events whilst they could last summer, including their picnic for recovery and pop-up event at Trowbridge sensory garden.
Wiltshire RSI have been working to support those in the community with sensory disturbances, they did this by setting up the Hearing Voices Group. The aim of the group is to provide a safe space for people in the community who experience sensory disturbances (e.g. auditory or visual) to come together and share their experiences and coping strategies in order to provide mutual support. During the pandemic this group is one that went online and is continuing to run via Zoom.
Wiltshire RSI has also been conducting some important research that identifies what service provision is available to those in the LGBTQ+ community and how the service can improve their accessibility. Wiltshire RSI are also working to establish similar research for the BAME community and for people with Autism. This is part of an ongoing development of how the service meets the needs of its community.
Hearing from our staff
As part of #OurCommunityServices at Recovery Focus we were able to hear what it’s like to work in a Community Service from a Community Link Advisor and Volunteer/Peer Support Coordinator, they also gave an insight into how Wiltshire RSI has digitally adapted to the pandemic. Check out what they had to say!
Why do you enjoy working in our community services? What does community services mean to you?
“I enjoy working in the community services because I like making a positive impact on individuals’ lives. I like watching individuals grow in confidence and truly helping to get them back into the community. I feel that every person should be given a chance to achieve things in their lives no matter how big or small. I enjoy being able to build good relationships with service users, their families and other colleagues which enables them to get the best support tailored to them.” Community Link Advisor
What does a day to day look like working in our community services?
“A typical day working with Richmond Fellowship Community Service is supporting someone with their confidence, their wellbeing, helping them gain their independence backu and helping with social inclusion. Since Covid-19 restrictions have been put in place my typical day to day has changed. I am now supporting people digitally and helping them get online more. This can be by helping them get on zoom and joining online groups instead of a face-to-face group. Although my day to day has changed, I still support service users with their confidence and getting back into the community.” Community Link Advisor
“My current role as Peer/Volunteer Coordinator working from home within Covid-19 restrictions is very different to 12 months ago. My support and coordinating responsibilities are all carried out in “virtual 1:1” format, using audio and video platforms. Many new ideas have been developed and will be taken forward as appropriate, when “normal” operational procedures are back in place.” Volunteer/Peer Support Coordinator
What impact does your service have on the people you support and the wider community?
“I feel it has a massive impact on the people we support. We give them hope and a purpose as we help them achieve small meaningful goals that they set themselves. Our support is very service user led and we will work with them to develop their own ideas in to achievements. For example we will support someone in attending a local group and once their confidence has grown we will then step back and let them gain their independence.” Community Link Advisor
“It is a major contributing factor in clients’ mental health recovery journey. It also produces benefit for the wider community via the impact of people engaging in a widening range of community based activities.” Volunteer/Peer Support Coordinator
How has COVID19 and lockdown restrictions changed the way you deliver your service?
“We have had to adapt to the changing restrictions in order to offer a range of support to our clients. We have had to minimise face to face appointments to stop the spread of Covid-19. This has meant that group activities, public transport and volunteering have had to be placed on hold meaning that social inclusion is decreasing, some individuals haven’t been able to socialise or make new friends. However this impact resulted in Richmond Fellowship becoming more digitally focused. I have been doing zoom calls and zoom groups with service users and Richmond Fellowship have created a fun weekly zoom social which has had a positive impact on people’s wellbeing. This is because they are able to socialise and chat to others even though they are at home.” Community Link Advisor
What has your service learnt from the pandemic and what will you continue to do as we move out of lockdown?
“We have learnt that we work well as a team. We have provided support to colleagues/friends when things have been challenging. I definitely know that without the support from my colleagues I wouldn’t have been able to get through the pandemic.
We will continue to provide a tailored support to service users and support them to increase independence and social inclusion.” Community Link Advisor
“Everyone has been affected in different ways, and virtual support is not always easy to provide. We will no doubt take the best of Covid-19 restriction procedures and blend them into post lockdown operational strategies.” Volunteer/Peer Support Coordinator
What is to come for your community service?
“Richmond Fellowship is going through the tender process currently. Although uncertain of what is to come we do know what we will be delivering the best support we can to our clients.” Community Link Advisor
“A new 5 year contract hopefully: Resulting from a tendering process currently in its final stages.” Volunteer/Peer Support Coordinator
Hearing from the people we support
The work our Community Service staff have been putting in has been remarkable in ensuring communities remain connected and that we minimise social isolation. But let’s hear from the people we support about how the Wiltshire RSI service has positively impacted their lives:
“It’s meant an awful lot. It’s like a little family of staff and friends who I know I can talk to and be honest to. It’s helped me feel I have value and purpose.”
“Seeing people (like yourself) managing your mental health was important. It’s actually meeting people with lived experienced that is the key. The feeling of not being alone has helped me to accept the illness. I’m not happy about it but I think I just accept it is what it is.”
“My support worker made a plan with me which we have both worked towards. I am now able to go out and about on my own, which I haven’t been able to do for nearly 5 years. This has really improved the quality of life.”
“My support worker made me feel like a person and with Richmond Fellowship’s support my confidence has improved and I feel more able to live a better life.”
We are so glad to hear such positive feedback about our Wiltshire RSI Community Service! Thank you to the Wiltshire RSI team for your support in Community Services Week. Make sure you continue to follow along with the week on #OurCommunityServices and follow the social media accounts across the group! Find out more about Wiltshire RSI and how you can get in contact with them here.