Radio Sparky – Working Together Week Podcast

Welcome to the latest edition of Radio Sparky, the podcast which shines the spotlight on the excellent work happening at Richmond Fellowship.

To mark Working Together Week across the Recovery Focus group of charities, Communications and Marketing Officer Matt Webb speaks to James Dominiak, Service Manager at Richmond Fellowship’s 24 hour Supported Housing Service in Stowmarket, Suffolk and Matt and Jordan who use the service about how they’ve embedded co-production in their service at local level.

“I’ve been involved with interview processes for staff, discussions around co-production and policy making. I was able to stand shoulder to shoulder with staff”. – Matt, person we support.

World Mental Health Day – Leaving Hospital After Ten Years

World Mental Health Day (10 October) is the international day for global mental health awareness, education, and advocacy against social stigma.  This year’s theme is “Mental Health for All”, and we are sharing stories of people that we support that show how important that is. Maggs, a person we support living in one of our 24 hour community support services, shares her story of moving from the criminal justice system into our services.

Hi! My name is Maggs and I would like to share the highs and lows of my discharge from hospital into 24hr support in the community. Before this, I spent ten years in various hospitals around the country. I think I should start from the beginning: I have been in a very low and difficult place for a long time. In 2010 I was in a place I didn’t think I could escape. My family could also see the darkness of that place in my eyes. Ten years on I can now finally accept how mentally and physically poorly I was.

Over the last ten years I have spent time in prison (for my own safety and to give the courts time to be able to apply a 37 hospital order). Once I had that order, I went to my first hospital not expecting that I would be going into a further three hospitals after that.

After being in the hospital, I gained a lot of confidence and accepted the person I used to be.

I was discharged from hospital into the community within a 24hr support housing service. This was alongside another lady who had been in the same hospital as me, so it was good to know someone who lived there too. There were also ten men who lived at the house; however this didn’t affect me even though I have a bad history with men. To be fair they were a good laugh! Eventually my friend moved in to her own flat with support from staff. It was sad to see her go but I was also so happy for her as she had worked hard to get her own flat.

I found it hard after she left, because all I was listening to were ten men bantering, swearing and being inappropriate with what they were saying and the manner they were saying it in. But now when I look back on this I know we all were struggling with mental health problems and everyone deals with these issues in so many different ways.

I know it wasn’t down to the individuals in the house that I had relapsed again, it was because I had put high expectations on myself to mend people who were struggling too.

At this point, I didn’t feel as confident as I had when I left hospital but that was because I wanted to fulfil my dreams of helping others who have been in the same position as me. I thought that if I could help anyone who is struggling with their mental health in any way shape or form, I would be fulfilled. While all this was going on, I had family back home who had been in a bad place too due to watching their own mum try to take her own life so many times. I loved them so so much but I knew that I was in the way of them following their dreams too. So, as I said at the beginning, I was admitted to a further three hospitals over the next five years.

I was at my last hospital for nearly two years and during this stay I developed many skills. These skills were then tested to their limits because I wanted to be a mum, a grandma and be with my family more than I had been. I questioned what would help me find the true Maggs underneath all the heartbreak over the years, and how I would make sense of the last ten years. I really valued the skills I learned during DBT, and I still use them to this day.

So, moving into the community was exciting, happy, scary and emotional for me. I was moving back home to my family, and I was excited as I was able to be a mum again and felt so lucky to be a grandma to seven gorgeous grandchildren. I wasn’t the only person who was emotional about moving into the community, my family were too. They had been waiting for this day for a long time.

Due to Covid-19 I was unable to see the property I was moving to. Two of the staff visited before lockdown to assess me for the accommodation and I was accepted. When I realised I wouldn’t be able to see where I was moving to, I judged the staff that came to visit me who were really lovely and approachable. I felt that I would be okay just to move in. I think my thoughts were to push myself that bit further because I knew I was so far away from the Maggs I was in 2010.

I had also met my care coordinator Kevin and my social worker Lydia. They were both so lovely and approachable too, I knew this was something big and such a positive and an amazing move waiting for me to grab with both hands.

Post lockdown tour of our services

Since lockdown has started to ease, Jo Schofield, our Head of Operations in the North, has taken the opportunity to visit several services and see for herself how staff and people we support have been getting on.

In this blog, she tells us more about these visits and what they tell us about our staff’s commitment to Making Recovery Reality, and how proud she is of how well staff and people we support adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic

Moor View (Care Home)

Yesterday was a great day for me. As Head of Operations for the North, I have always been out and about visiting our services but due to Covid-19 that hasn’t been possible since March 2020. However, yesterday I ventured out to my first service visit since lockdown. I visited Moor View our registered care home in Halifax with 24-hour nursing. Upon arrival, I was temperature checked and offered disposable PPE.

Even though I was at Moor View for a meeting with colleagues, I took in the environment and was impressed with the cleanliness of the building. I introduced myself to two staff who I haven’t met before and they told me that they felt safe in the workplace, they felt well informed and supported. Whilst I have heard daily about the good work that is happening in services, there is nothing quite like seeing it for yourself!

Our frontline workers have continued to go into their workplace and adapted their home life to ensure they are as safe as they can be to continue to support the people that use our services.

Today I really felt such pride for everyone I met at Moor View. Not only our frontline staff for their awareness and alertness around Covid-19 but also the people living in our services. It was obvious to me that a lot of work had taken place to educate some of our residents about keeping themselves safe and respecting personal space and maintaining a safe distance with our staff and other residents and visitors to the service.

Trevayler (Crisis House)

Continuing on my visits to services to see how things are going on the frontline during the pandemic, last week took me to Trevayler. Trevayler has two elements; a transitional unit for people moving from a hospital setting and also a crisis house for people experiencing a mental health crisis that require some interventions to prevent a further relapse in their mental health.

As I walked down the drive, I could see what has now become a familiar sight when visiting Richmond Fellowship services; the colourful rainbows in the window that residents and guests had coloured to represent “hope” during the pandemic.

On arrival I was told that I was entering a Covid-19 free zone and asked if I had had any of the identified symptoms, which I confirmed that I had not. I spent time walking around the building and viewing an area of the building that will be transformed into a Crisis Haven over the coming weeks.

There were six staff in handover and I talked to them about how they felt coming into work on the frontline during the pandemic. They collectively told me that this was their job and that they did what they do. At this point, they felt very supported and said that  Richmond Fellowship had done everything possible to make sure they were safe.

As a senior leader in the organisation, I came away feeling proud of the staff working at Trevayler and how they had made adjustments to their lives to ensure the safety of those they support.

There are no words that can describe my gratitude of those working on the frontline to ensure that people we support continue to get the support they need, when they need it.

Tower House (24 Hour Supported Housing)

Last week, my service visits continued. I went to Tower House which is a 24 hour Supported Housing Service in Chester.

Upon arrival I couldn’t hide my smile as I saw the window covered in rainbows acknowledging “hope” during the pandemic. Residents engaged with craft sessions to decorate the window; joined in the clap for carers on Thursdays at 8pm and knew the importance of keeping themselves safe to reduce the risk of falling victim to the virus.

As I was shown around the beautiful building I met resident after resident who kept a safe distance and wore their face masks when they were in communal areas. One of the residents I spoke to explained that they had COPD and therefore was exempt from wearing a face mask but told me that they weren’t going to take any chances and was happy to wear one to keep everyone safe.

The three staff on duty spoke to me about how the residents have responded positively to changes within their living environment and how to start with it was extremely difficult but with lots of education about the Coronavirus and additional support offered, residents had responded really positively. They were really proud of how the residents had adapted during this really difficult time.

I came away from Tower House feeling confident that the staff and residents were working together to keep the service operating in a safe way and that the safety measures in place were not intrusive, but a true reflection on how the virus is being taken seriously within the setting.

What these service visits have shown

These service visits have reinforced what I already knew about our amazing staff and people we support. Throughout the entire pandemic, staff have shown resilience and commitment to our mission: making recovery reality. Even when the country was in a state of crisis, every staff member I encountered radiated hope and respect. They were all focused on enabling the people we support to achieve their goals even in the most adverse external circumstances.

As lockdown measures continue to change, we will keep working with staff and people we support to adapt how our services operate. We believe that everyone has a right to participate fully in society, and we will always ensure our services are running – whatever challenges the future might hold.

How have our services adapted to the lock down – Willow House

We spoke to Deborah Webster, service manager at Willow House, on how our crisis houses have continued to provide care despite the lockdown. Willow House took in new referrals and provided high quality recovery care while keeping both staff and guests safe in line with government guidance.

Willow House is a crisis house that has been open for 3 years and it has always been a fast paced service. We offer provide a unique alternative to psychiatric hospital admission and address the needs of people experiencing a mental health crisis. We are proud of the relationships guest build together as peers and with our staff.

Usually people referred to us stay up to a week in our house with their own room and have several sessions a day with a recovery worker. Since the Covid-19 outbreak we have adapted to quickly and moved to a virtual service for guests. We have telephone and video call support 24 hours a day so guests can contact our staff any time they require support. We offer the same catalogue of interventions previously done face to face but in a safe way for both staff and guests.

We practically changed all our processes overnight to accommodate this. For new referrals we use an NHS screening tool to ensure people don’t have symptoms or haven’t been exposed to people with symptoms.

We practically changed all our processes overnight to accommodate this. For new referrals we use an NHS screening tool to ensure people don’t have symptoms or haven’t been exposed to people with symptoms. There are times slots for rooms so guests can still enjoy Willow House while maintaining social distancing. All our staff in the house wear masks, keep two metres apart and can’t spend more than 15 minutes face to face with other people. Some staff now work from home which has taken its toll due the isolation but I think overall we are a stronger, more resilient team.Our recovery workers have taken steps to help people we support with the transition to the new virtual methods. Staff are more casual and conversational over the phone. This new communication style helps guests feel comfortable and engage better with the intervention.

We are commissioned to provide a crisis service for people in Lancashire and we will provide it.

I didn’t think I’d face new challenges such as dogs barking over skype or parrots chirping during a telephone intervention but I think everyone will agree the pandemic has bought a new perspective to everything. We are focusing on our own wellbeing as individuals and a team so we can cope with these tough times. Some staff said they struggled with separating work from home. Together we have agreed that staff do not have to fill the day and that taking time out for themselves during the day is important. Screen time has shot up and people’s homes aren’t offices. Overall everyone has adapted well to the changes and new working routine.

We are commissioned to provide a crisis service for people in Lancashire and we will provide it. For a crisis house to stop during a crisis would be the last thing we want. We assessed the risks to our staff and guests and adapted the service as necessary. The hard work and dedication of the staff to keep the people we support on their recovery journey cannot be overstated.

We want people to know that our they can still access our service as an alternative to hospital admissions. In a time of high anxiety and uncertainty we will be there for those in a mental health crisis.

What does Mental Health Awareness Week mean for us this year?

Mental Health Awareness Week is unsurprisingly a key week for our group of charities. Richmond Fellowship is one of the biggest voluntary sector providers of mental health care in England, supporting over 11,000 people every year through nearly 150 services. As a group we also deliver support to people affected by domestic abuse, substance use and gambling– and we know the role that mental health plays in all this areas.

We are first and foremost service delivery organizations, and in many places our services deliver their support to the people who need it most, often with little fanfare. So Mental Health Awareness Week has always been a great opportunity for our services to talk to local and regional audiences about what they do and why mental health matters. As the week has grown in stature and influence every year, it is helping to remove the stigma around talking about mental health and we always want to be part of that conversation.

Yet this year Mental Health Awareness Week has almost snuck up on us. Perhaps for obvious reasons as we’ve all been working flat out during the pandemic to ensure that our services continue to be there for the people who need it most. Our usual methods of marking the week – through events, stalls, talks, flyers etc – simply aren’t available to us this year. However this is also a time when people are thinking, and talking, about their mental health more than ever.

Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation the theme this year is kindness (#KindnessMatters), and the focus is on what sort of society we would like to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. With that pandemic in mind and all consuming, we’ve had to really think about what we want Mental Health Awareness Week to mean for us in 2020.

We are phenomenally proud that throughout the pandemic, thanks to our staff’s hard work, all of our services have remained open.

The more we thought about, the more it was obvious that this needed to be about our staff. Keeping the people we support mentally well and their recovery journey on track has been as big a challenge as keeping people safe from the virus. We are phenomenally proud that throughout the pandemic, thanks to our staff’s hard work, all of our services have remained open. Many staff have had to rapidly adapt how and where they work, and many have continued to go in to work in order to keep residential services open and stable.

All over the country our staff are going above and beyond in helping people on their recovery journeys. Our services are partnering with local foodbanks, community projects and mutual aid groups with signposting and deliveries. Staff have also helped tenants source food and hygiene supplies keeping them safe especially if they are self-shielding. In other services, staff have made special deliveries of cake and cards to the people we support reminding them that we are here for them as a community not just a service. Social distancing may have exacerbated isolated individuals’ situations but our staff have stepped up to the challenge. New virtual groups have been formed in partnership with the people we support. Through Zoom, Whatsapp and telephone our staff are providing vital companionship, prompting conversations and maybe even just saying hello.

Nearly 50% of our staff are frontline Recovery Workers, directly supporting people on their recovery journey. They are the key workers who we are happy to see increasingly recognized by the general public as the pandemic has taken hold. Their kindness has always been apparent to us and the people we support, and we hope that the society that emerges on the other side of this will be one that continues to value and thank them.

We’ll be thanking them especially this week, and putting the spotlight on their hard work. Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week we’ll be talking more about how they’ve adapted to keep services running, their acts of kindness and how they’ve been looking after their own mental health as well as that of the people we support. We hope that by using #mentalhealthawarenessweek to recognize our staff we’ll help you understand the importance of their work – now and well into the future.

Driving change

Our DVIP and MyTime divisions were partners in the recent three year Drive pilot, working with the perpetrators of domestic abuse. The pilot’s evaluation received widespread coverage this month – but what next?

The prevalence of domestic abuse in the UK is staggering – 100,000 people are at risk of domestic homicide or serious harm every year. Historically the response to domestic abuse has focused on expecting the victim to leave and start a new life in a new community. Often the perpetrator is left to continue their life as normal and frequently repeats the same behaviour with new partners, creating more victims. Currently 1 in 4 domestic abuse perpetrators are repeat offenders, and only 1% of perpetrators receive specialist intervention to address their behaviour.

Richmond Fellowship’s specialist domestic abuse divisions, DVIP and MyTime, know we need to tackle the root cause, and together have nearly 30 years’ experience and expertise developing and delivering perpetrator interventions. We respond to and support perpetrators through local behaviour change and risk management services whilst also providing vital support services to women and children.

Since 2016 we have been part of the Drive pilot (led by Safelives, Respect and Social Finance), delivering a programme that challenges and seeks to change perpetrator behaviour. Drive was an intensive and multi agency approach that ran in Essex, South Wales and West Sussex initially and was then replicated in Croydon, Worcester, Birmingham & Sandwell and Cardiff. We were partners for West Sussex and West Midlands.

The recently published evaluation of this three year long pilot demonstrated the clear potential of the Drive approach. For instance the number of Drive service users perpetrating abuse types reduced as follows:

– Physical abuse reduced by 82%
– Sexual abuse reduced by 88%
– Harassment and stalking behaviours reduced by 75%
– Jealous and controlling behaviours reduced by 73%

The evaluation received wide spread press coverage, and saw more than 80 organisations sign a call to action for the government to create a domestic abuse perpetrator strategy. The joint call for action rightly highlights the need for a national response – one that incorporates multi-agency approaches such as Drive. But most importantly it also highlights that the vast majority of perpetrators are not able to access Drive type interventions.

So what next? We want to see more evidence-based activities that support social change to end domestic abuse. Sustainable government funding will be key to enabling a national roll-out of effective multi-agency responses like Drive.

We also want to apply this overlapping service approach to the Recovery Focus Group. Domestic abuse is everyone’s business and it crosses over all service provision across our group.

We currently deliver a number of innovative service models that not only work with the individuals that use abusive behaviours in intimate relationships but also the victims, survivors and children. Our vision is that domestic abuse services will be fully integrated into services across the group.

Over the next three years we will be looking to expand our domestic abuse services across the UK in line with the group’s existing provision.

New location for Cambridgeshire Employment service in Huntingdon

Richmond Fellowship’s Cambridgeshire Employment service in Huntingdon has moved into a new premises from today (Monday 18 November).

Central to Huntingdon town centre, Hartford House has had a new lease of life thanks to the hard work of local drug and alcohol support service; Change, Grow, Live (CGL).

Both Richmond Fellowship and CGL are excited to partner together in sharing the bright new space.

Kerry Stiles, Area Manager for Richmond Fellowship’s East Anglia services said:

“Co-location is just the beginning for us, with the longer term plan to engage in more joined up working practices. For the people we support, the move will bring a much needed positive and inclusive welcome when they visit, offering space for refreshments, peer activities and self reflection”.

To find out more, visit www.richmondfellowship.org.uk/cambsemploymentservice.

Tameside service group enjoy Lakes challenge

A group of individuals from Richmond Fellowship’s supported housing service in Tameside recently enjoyed a fantastic 5 day outdoor challenge holiday in the Lake District, thanks to a grant provided by the National Lottery.

People using the service had the chance to participate in an array of different challenges including caving, scrambling, zip-wiring as well as piloting a boat.

After exploring the outdoors, the group enjoyed cooking together and showing off their talent in an impromptu song and dance.

They ended each day relaxing by Lake Windermere and a wonderful starlit sky.

All those who attended are currently receiving support from the service in Tameside to manage their own mental ill health.

Garry, one of the participants said:

“It was great to be in a team encouraging each other and relying on each other. It was hard pushing myself but very worthwhile. I know I can do more now.”

Chris Delderfield, Registered Manager at Richmond Fellowship’s Tameside supported housing service said:

“This was a fantastic opportunity for the people we support giving them the opportunity to experience a range of outdoor activities and spend 5 days in a very rural setting which, for most people, was a completely new experience. This holiday was only possible thanks to the generous grant that we received from the Big Lottery Fund.”

Developing our Tameside Supported Housing service

1 in 4 people in the UK experience mental health issues each year, and incredible work is being done across the country to tackle mental health stigma. Richmond Fellowship supports tens of thousands of people across the country every year, providing tailored support to tie in with each person’s needs, interests and aspirations – and we are proud that 97% of people who use our services feel that Richmond Fellowship has improved their quality of life, and 93% feel safe and secure in our services.  

Supported housing is one of the key models of support we offer. As well as offering a safe, welcoming place for people to live, the support provided helps people along their path of recovery to independent living. We are proud to have run supported housing services in Tameside for many years, and have never had any problems with the local community in that time. We are committed to continually improving the quality of the properties we provide. Our new property would replace ageing accommodation, and will be a modern, self-contained flat complex with support staff on-site 24/7 in order to provide the best recovery environment for the people we support. 

We will be talking to local people in order to hear any concerns and promote understanding of our work and services.

Oxfordshire care home moves into refurbished state of the art building

Richmond Fellowship’s Registered Care Home in Oxfordshire has moved into a brand new home.

The service, formally known as The Knowl, has relocated to a renovated property on Oxford Road, Abingdon called Holder House. The service was originally run by 2Care but became part of Richmond Fellowship along with several other registered care homes in 2011.

Holder House, a CQC registered ‘good’ care home provides support for individuals over 18 experiencing enduring mental ill health. It is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and Richmond Fellowship’s dedicated team continue to provide the same high level of support to the individuals using the service.

The refurbishment of the property has been tailored specifically for the people Richmond Fellowship supports. It boasts 14 en-suite furnished residents rooms, a large commercial style kitchen downstairs, 2 additional kitchenettes upstairs and an extensive garden which provides plenty of space for leisure activities and growing plants and vegetables.

The property has excellent transport links with access to public transport, helping individuals to re-gain their independence and participate in even more local community activities.

The building takes its name from the Holder family, following a generous donation left by the estate of Gwen Holder on behalf of her late husband John Holder who was a chair of 2Care – as well as a donation from Richard Holder, also a former chair, who sadly passed away in 2007.

Doug Low, Area Manager for Richmond Fellowship’s Oxfordshire services said:

“We’re so thrilled to have moved into Holder House. The new building is amazing and will make a real impact on the lives of the people we support. I’d like to thank the residents of Oxford Road for making us feel so welcome. We’re also proud to have involved the people we support in the development and design of the property, harnessing on our Working Together approach”.

Derek Caren, Chief Executive of Richmond Fellowship said:

“This is a really exciting opportunity for both the team and people we support in Oxfordshire. The property enables us to offer state of the art accommodation for people living with mental ill health in a peaceful community setting. I’d also like to personally pay tribute to the Holder family for their generous donation which has helped towards developing the building”.