We spoke with Lesley Dewhurst who is the CEO of Restore, read the interview below or watch the video on YouTube.
Watch the interview here:
COULD YOU START BY TELLING US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR WORK?
My name’s Lesley Dewhurst and I’m a Chief Executive at Restore an Oxfordshire-based mental health charity. In fact, it’s nearly 46 years old. I’ve been here for six years. But Restore is 46 and long may it go on for another 46 at least. Restore is an organisation that helps people recover and sustain recovery from long-term or periodic mental ill health, and we do that by helping people find their feet again so that through a combination of attendance at our recovery groups where we run therapeutic work-based activities such as horticulture garden but also making things through arts and craft and cooking.
We also have two shops and cafes, so there are recovery groups where the whole point of it is for people to really find their feet, maybe realise that they’ve got skills that they never had recognised, gain confidence, grow all sorts of aspirations again, after they’ve been feeling really down and just can’t focus on anything because of how awful they feel.
Restore helps open up that window of possibility into people’s futures. And so it’s done very much in a group activity where people are working together to try and solve problems like why the compost bins are falling to pieces. People actually think ‘Ohh I’ve got something I can offer. I do know how to do that and to learn from others, so we couldn’t do it without the group. That’s the point of it.
Our recovery groups are across Oxfordshire, one in Didcot one in Banbury and four within Oxford itself, one of which is based on the little more hospital site. We also have coaching for people both within our recovery groups and external coaching clients so we offer a way to help people think through again the next steps in their life, particularly to do with getting back into employment or volunteering or anything else that brings some meaning into their lives.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE:
I see my role yet as chief executive, I’ve just got to help grow, develop, nurture, Restore, to make sure that we’ve got all the right things in place that we need to function, principally money, but also contacts and the external part of Restore to make sure that we are talking to the right people in the right places at the right times and
How do you put co-production and lived experience into practice?
We do a lot to try and hear and act on things from any of our service users. We’ve done something quite recently where we had a co-produced method of evaluating and setting goals and personal goals within recovery groups and that really took time. Proper co-production does take time but it was people who are members such as the service users within some of our recovery groups who volunteered to help think through how to produce a dynamic tool that they could all use to help set personal goals. And among our trustees, we do have one current trustee who has been a member of our recovery groups in previous years.
Our client group is adults, anybody over 18. We also have a very inspirational thing called the Oxfordshire Recovery College, which Restore hosts, and the Recovery College designs and puts on courses on any subject to do with our lives and our mental health. The courses are all co-designed and co-delivered by people who’ve either got their own experiences of mental health and or they work in a mental health setting. So those courses are all free, so look us up on the website and you’ll find out about all of those things. We also do a whole variety of other training as well. Mental health first aid training for employers, about how to support their staff better. So that in a nutshell, is a summary of restore and what we do.
WHAT SERVICES DO YOU PROVIDE THAT RELATE TO NHS OR HEALTH?
Restore is part of a much wider network called the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership. and so between us we deliver all of the mental health services to adults of working age and beyond in some instances, that’s with Oxford Health and then the four other VCSE partners, Oxfordshire Mind Response, Connection Support and Elmore Community Services. And so between the six of us, that’s what we do all the time.
All of the money for the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership does come from the NHS and local authority funding in a joint budget. Of course, we work on a daily basis with colleagues in Oxford Health and in indeed some of our other colleagues have services within Buckinghamshire and Berkshire as well. So we are quite broad between us.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE TO JOIN THE HEALTH ALLIANCE?
We are part of a partnership that is living proof that you always need to be greater than the sum of your parts, and what better way when the BOB ICS was formed then to think much wider than our Oxfordshire boundaries.
I must admit at first I was thinking ohh goodness me, does that mean a forum with hundreds of people in it which can be quite meaningless but I’ve really enjoyed being part of the VCSE Alliance, and particularly the mental health action group, because actually, you can get to know individuals and make contacts. It’s an online group, so you don’t always make contacts in the same way as you would if you were in person. But on the other hand, it does mean that people attend so I think it’s particularly important for the smaller organisations that don’t normally get a voice to hear those voices. And it really does help us all learn, you know, my charity is not massive, but we’re bigger than some and it is important for us to hear about organisations that we need to link in with and client groups that get overlooked as well. I think that that’s really helpful.
HOW HAS BEING A PART OF THE HEALTH ALLIANCE HELPED YOU?
I think what’s really helped me is to keep up with just what’s actually going on in the ICS and it’s really helped early on when the meeting with Javed Khan was set up just hearing the views of how the system might work.
I know it’s that’s been quite a bumpy road for everybody within the ICS but it makes me feel that we’ve actually got a link through in a way that otherwise I’d be relying on people within a variety of different settings to the commissioning structures . To feel that there’s somebody who is actively seeking to bring back information into an Alliance is really helpful.
And when I think to our input into the Integrated Care strategy, I must admit when you’re asked you to read this plan and give your views, you think I’ve got 1001 things to do and I don’t know what my views are. And then it’s really helpful when what we had a smaller group of people to come up with some ideas and then you think ‘I do have some thoughts now’ and then you can add to that. So I do think that once it’s a little bit like when you start the snowball going down the hill, if somebody’s started that snowball then that can really pull something together that’s much much bigger.
HAVE YOU FOUND YOU BUILT YOUR NETWORK? HAVE YOU MADE NEW CONNECTIONS FROM BEING PART OF THE HEALTH ALLIANCE?
I think that we’ve been lucky within the partnership that we’ve already got as OMHP some quite strong connections and I think in terms of the Alliance, rather than just the mental health action group, what’s been really healthy is that some of the infrastructure organisations that we work with in Oxfordshire, are going to Alliance and BOB ICS meetings and representing about what we do. I think it’s about those links and how it all can join up together. Better if people are all hearing the same things at the same time and trusting that representation. I think it’s been great that we have like the Alliance Chair and the Deputy Chair, they’re going to the BOB meetings and representing the views because they are listening to us as a collective and feeding back and vice versa, which has been really good to see unfold.
SO WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU WERE GOING TO RECOMMEND JOINING THE ALLIANCE TO OTHERS?
I’d say just even if you think you haven’t got enough hours in the day, just give it a go and join the Alliance and then join the relevant action groups. Obviously de facto they have a smaller number of people attend, so it’s easier to join in, but either way, I think it’s time well spent.
Well, thank you, Leslie, for your time. I really appreciate you doing the interview and we have really valued all of your contributions in the alliance and especially in the sub-group. And we wish you well and we look forward to carrying forth with the person who’s taking over after yourself.
That’s right. Yes. So I leave Restore at the end of June and after really enjoying my six years here at Restore and Libby Peppiatt, who currently has just left a job at national mind, will be joining as the new chief executive at Restore.