We spoke with Salome Williams, Head of Quality & Evaluation at Buckinghamshire Mind about their work in Co-Production.
1. What does your organisation do and who do you work with?
We are Buckinghamshire Mind, the mental health charity. Our vision is that everyone with a mental health problem gets support and respect. We deliver services in our local communities, in Buckinghamshire and East Berkshire. We promote wellbeing and recovery; we prevent mental ill health; we offer talking therapies and we provide support in times of crisis.
We are an independent charity that is proud to be affiliated with National Mind and to adhere to its quality standards of governance and service delivery. Buckinghamshire Mind is part of a network of over 100 Local Minds, which provide trusted mental health services to our communities. Buckinghamshire Mind is run by local people for local people and is responsible for its own funding and the services it provides.
We work with Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, Buckinghamshire Council, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, NHS England, BOB ICB and Citizen’s Advice. We also signpost to over 150 other charities in Bucks and Berks.
My role covers many areas of quality and compliance at Bucks Mind, supporting operational teams to deliver excellent services and improve processes that affect all areas of the organisation. My team’s work around influence and participation draws on the Mind strategy of standing shoulder to shoulder with those that we support to ensure we include the lived experience in the way that we work. This is an ever-evolving journey for us, looking at ways that we can shift the influence that people have from merely asking for feedback right up to involving them in co-design of services
2. Why is co-creation a priority in your work?
Buckinghamshire Mind core values, as outlined in ‘We are Buckinghamshire Mind 2021-2024 Strategy’, are: Open – we reach out and welcome anyone with a mental health need, Caring – we treat everyone with compassion and kindness, Experienced – we stand shoulder to shoulder with people with lived experience, ensuring our services make a difference, Unstoppable – we speak out fearlessly and won’t give up and Together – we are stronger in partnership and respect everyone’s contribution and background
To do that effectively, it is essential that a deep understanding of the needs and experiences of people with mental health problems drives everything that we do and that, wherever we can, we actively seek opportunities for people with experience of mental health problems to lead and guide our work. This includes both people with experience of Buckinghamshire Mind’s services and people who are not known to Buckinghamshire Mind.
We run a diverse range of services and the opportunities for people to utilise their lived experience will vary depending on service delivery. There are two areas of the work where co-creation is integral in the delivery of the service – Peer Support and Campaigning. Our two Peer Support services – Friends in Need and Mind The Gap provide opportunities for people we support to move from being a user to becoming a volunteer, creating and facilitating a group using their lived experience and knowledge (delivered under the Peer Support Model). Champion the Change challenges stigma around mental health and the Champions – people with lived experience – are provided with support and practical advice to tell their story challenging stigma and raising awareness of mental health issues.
3. What is in place to make your services more accessible?
All staff team members are trained in mental health awareness. Bucks Mind works in an inclusive manner to support an open approach to be able to talk about and your experiences and use these to influence service delivery. Working groups have been set up with people with lived experience to review areas such as volunteering. A schedule of opportunities are being created to actively promote lived experience involvement where possible. This is to create a positive approach to always thinking about lived experience involvement in changes being made across services, supporting our teams to create a more accessible route to involving people from the beginning of projects.
4. How do you currently involve users to create and develop services?
Given the diverse range of services how we involve people we support varies across Bucks Mind but as a minimum we regularly collect feedback via a standard list of 7 questions. The 7 questions have formed the basis of our analysis of support people have received and are currently being reviewed. We have also introduced a new CRM that will allow a more data driven process, providing better focus to our feedback questions to what matters – both to us, our funders and the people we support. In addition, there are two projects underway that will involve more detailed feedback (specific surveys, interviews, focus groups, working groups) from the people we support – a review of our Wellbeing services and a review of volunteering at Bucks Mind.
You could easily call our Champions ‘Ambassadors’. The 25 Champions have developed a variety of different approaches – a film, blog posts, podcasts, articles and many other creative ideas as ways of tackling stigma around mental health. It is always inspiring to hear what our Champions are planning!
Our board of trustees, and our senior management team, are a diverse set of people with a variety of different skills and life experiences. With one of our trustees with lived experience moving on, we have recently advertised specifically for trustees with mental health lived experience to continue to ensure this representation on our board. The advertising drive successful found 2 new trustees with lived experience who are currently undergoing induction.
5. What changes have been made as a result of co-creation?
Bucks Mind work on tackling mental health stigma across Buckinghamshire has been driven by the work the Champions have done through sharing their lived experience’s and providing different views and ways to highlight this. This has been very influential in how we have raised important issues such as men’s mental health and how mental health can be viewed in other cultures.
The Champion the Change programme launched a new partnership with Buckinghamshire New University in 2022. The partnership aims to encourage students to speak openly about mental health, to be more able to identify low mental health symptoms in themselves and others as well as know how to access support. Working with the University’s Safeguarding and Wellbeing teams, who identified the correlation between diverse backgrounds and low mental health, the campaign has attended wellbeing fayres, hosted a film premier about ending stigma and also sent out information to the 7,000 students on digital communication channels for key mental health awareness days.
Moving forward, the partnership has continued to grow and has a focus on reaching and empowering students from diverse communities to have more open conversations about mental health. From attending ‘coffee and chat’ sessions for students who have been supported by the Safeguarding and Wellbeing team and students from diverse communities, to launching a student-led campaign to help empower their peers to positively transform attitudes about mental health.
6. What organisational benefits have you had from co-creation?
Lived experience is seen as a strength that allows us to develop our services based on input from people who have had good or bad experiences of service delivery and want to see their views incorporated into how a service will be delivered. Working alongside people’s lived experiences reminds us that ideas that can seem good in theory needs to be adjusted/adapted in practice for people who have lived experience. Allowing a much more fluid and productive service delivery that is flexible and responsive to people’s needs.
7. What top tips would you share with an organisation that wants to involve users in shaping their services?
- Clear explanation of the role and the limits of the role i.e. what can be changed and what cannot be changed.
- Have a policy of payment/reward – it is essential to recognise the contribution / time that people with lived experience give.
However, there needs to be clear definition of the role as payment to volunteers can be considered as an employment contract.
8. Lessons learned around Co-Production
Create opportunities for people to be involved in – We found a call out to participate in events that don’t have clear guidelines around them did not tend to get much up take. Be clear what you are asking people to put their time and knowledge into.
Recognise organic service level work – Many teams had or are doing fantastic involvement work with people with lived experience at a local level, I.e. through positive recruitment processes into volunteering and job positions, regular involvement and feedback into service delivery. Recognising this with teams as sometimes they do not realise the involvement work, they are doing as it was just “what they do”!