Behind the scenes of our new podcast series, Challenging, By Shelter. By Colette Carter, former Peer Mentor.
Make it short and punchy they said. OK, keep reading this or else…
No, that’s not the way to appeal to you all to take five minutes to read what I’m about to say. But if I promised you it would ignite not just food for thought, but may also reward you with the feel-good factor, would you read it?
Don’t we all need a little feel-good factor? Especially in today’s lockdown climate and the intensity of working from home, which brings its own bag full of hurdles and anxieties.
Down a hole
Have you ever been stuck in a hole? I don’t mean physically falling into a hole that has been dug for whatever reason. I mean the precipice of your mind. Most of us have experienced the feelings of ‘what am I going to do?’, ‘how am I going to get out of this one?’ and then someone extends a helpful hand. Someone who is willing to help you, but due to your pride, ego, privacy – whatever the excuse was – you refused that hand. For those who accepted that extended hand of friendship (which costs nothing), suddenly the hole didn’t seem that deep or dark, and it was easier to get out of than you had imagined.
We built a very successful service on the very essence of extended kindness. The most very basic humanistic trait. But in the midst of a dog-eat-dog society, some of us have forgotten how to be kind. For others, the notion of who they are means they would be utterly offended if they were offered help. Which category do you fall into?
Co-production at Shelter
As we are celebrating Co-production week, I thought what better way of showing the benefits of real co-production than by comparing the extended hand of friendship to the Lead Worker/Peer Mentor service that was born from genuinely caring for others, particularly those with Multiple and Complex Needs (MCNs). These are the people we see, (or do we really see them?) every day on our commute to work, on the streets, or by the shopping centre.
Lead Workers (LW) were experienced support workers with a special quality and range of experiences of working with different services, that set them apart from their colleagues. The Peer Mentors (PM) had experienced MCNs themselves, and had worked to overcome these, but remembered all too well the judgemental public gazes and the negative attitudes of some. The pairing of a Lead Worker with a Peer Mentor was an innovative combination that proved, though extensive evaluation, that this support model led to long-standing improvements in physical and mental health for those experiencing MCNs.
A joined up approach
That was but one partnership. A second example of co-production was Shelter delivering the Lead Worker/Peer Mentor service with Sifa Fireside, a renowned Birmingham service with a daily drop-in providing hot meals and social and medical support, as well as Birmingham MIND, another nationally renowned service that centres on mental wellbeing.
LWs and PMs sought to collaborate with the services the clients they worked with required, and built not only good professional relationships, but indirectly created an awareness of MCNs and how best to provide wrap-around support to help.
So successful was the LW/PM service that the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust has now created its own peer mentor service, which is being rolled out nationally, using the same model which has proved so successful in Birmingham. In addition, the Rough Sleepers Initiative in Birmingham has been inspired to employ people with past lived experience to communicate and engage rough sleepers.
Oh no, not another podcast!
Due to COVID-19 we got creative, thinking outside the box to find new ways to promote the LW/PM model. With crucial help from colleagues across Shelter, we are proud to have produced our very own podcast series, Challenging, By Shelter, hosted by former PM (that’s Peer Mentor, not Prime Minister!) Lee Demetriou, alongside this blog, and a newsletter.
As they say, there’s ‘no I in team’
I am proud to have been a part of the Lead Worker/Peer Mentor Model, and I would like you to tune into the podcasts we have created. We talk honestly and candidly to the clients we helped out of the dark holes they were in. From having nothing to experiencing valued relationships and structure, today their gratitude is immeasurable. We have some terrific personal stories of triumph over adversity.
We also chat with the commissioners whose bravery brought about system change to supporting those with MCNs, not forgetting employing those with histories of homelessness, drug abuse, mental health issues and criminal backgrounds. WOW, I wonder how many of them had sleepless nights wondering if this was just a little too much of a systems’ change? I’m sure they sleep a lot better today. I’d like to thank them on behalf of everyone involved. We also have team leaders, managers and staff giving interviews on their views of the service.
Accepting the hand of friendship and of help has been, for many, their saving grace. Let us all remember that hole is not so bad when you have someone to help you out of it.