Local organisations work together in times of uncertainty

Gathering feedback from homeless people about Community Mental Health Services

Firstly, I’d like to introduce myself – my name is Lucy, and I am the Engagement Officer for Healthwatch Dorset.

Healthwatch Dorset is the independent champion for people who use health and social care services.  We find out what matters to people and make sure their views shape local services.  The main part of my role as Engagement Officer is to go out into the community to speak to the public, service users, carers and local organisations, to find out what is important to them, and how they would like to see local health and social care services delivered.

Gathering feedback from young people about local mental health services

Just before lockdown, I spent a few weeks working on a project that involved carrying out some engagement work with young people who have had personal experience of using young people’s mental health services in Dorset.  I chatted to young asylum seekers, young offenders, cared for children, young people who had been excluded from school and in a general sense, young people who don’t always have a strong voice.  I enjoyed this work; it was interesting and informative to hear their stories.  Although I had a couple more visits to make, lockdown happened, and the project was cut short.  Fortunately, I had already gathered a lot of feedback that will prove valuable in how young people’s mental health services are shaped in the future.

A challenge – gathering feedback about mental health services from people who are homeless during lockdown

As my role involves spending a lot of time out in the community talking to people, I could see that the lockdown was going to put limitations on the work I could do going forward.  I had a new project on the horizon that would involve carrying out engagement work with people who are homeless and/or have drug and alcohol issues.  This project is part of Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group’s review of Community Mental Health Services, but it had to be put on hold.

Although the start of lockdown was quite worrying, the lack of work did not actually prove to be too much of a problem for very long…

An opportunity – local organisations working together to support the community

My manager had previously met with Community Action Network (CAN, formerly Bournemouth CVS), a local organisation that provides volunteer support in the community.  They have over 800 contacts on their database, all of whom needed a phone call, mainly to see how their clients were faring during the pandemic, and to see if they needed any additional support.

This proved to be a great opportunity for me to get involved to help CAN with their phone calls and learn more about the work they do.  It also enabled me to gather feedback from people who use health and social care services during the calls, and to learn more about the work of other local organisations.  The phone calls were really interesting – people’s stories were varied, and it was great to hear how organisations were coping during this time of crisis, and how they were supporting people in the community who desperately needed their help.

Working with Michael House to gather feedback from people who are homeless

One of the calls I made for CAN was to Michael House, a local organisation that provides a great deal of help and support to people who are vulnerable.  They provide a safe dry house and offer supported accommodation to male and female clients who are vulnerable.

I chatted to Mark, the Chief Executive, and he told me about the projects that Michael House run and the support they provide to their residents.  During the conversation, I mentioned the engagement work that I was hoping to do with people who are homeless and have experience of using community mental health services and explained that this was now inevitably on hold.  Mark was keen to hear about the project and offered to gather feedback on our behalf from the clients that Michael House support.  They have since gathered some strong feedback for us that will be valuable to the review of Community Mental Health Services and will hopefully make a real difference to how services run in the future.

“Michael House really welcomed the opportunity to be involved in gathering feedback for the review of Community Mental Health Services, especially during these uncertain times. The last few months have been a very difficult time for many, but this exercise created a useful discussion topic and allowed our residents to openly share their past and present experiences of using Mental Health services.”
Mark Horsford, Michael House Chief Executive

Working together – a strong and supportive community

At the time I didn’t really give it a lot of thought, but on reflection it dawned on me that this was a great example of local organisations helping one another and the community, during what was, and still is an incredibly difficult time.

As a nation I think we are very good at coming together during times of adversity, we have a great sense of community spirit.  For me, the ‘Clap for Carers’ and the wonderful support that people in the community provided to those who were shielding, goes to prove that.  And, my recent work with CAN and Michael House, are further examples of how organisations have supported another with the work that they do.

The changes that people, communities, businesses and local organisations have had to make over the last few months are massive, and they have done it successfully.  It makes me think, if we stand together as a community and support one another, then anything is possible!

World Homeless Day – 10 October 2020

The purpose of World Homeless Day is to draw attention to homeless people’s needs locally and provide opportunities for the community to get involved in responding to homelessness, while taking advantage of the stage an ‘international day’ provides.

Sharing feedback to help make care better for our community

The feedback gathered by Michael House for Healthwatch Dorset will be shared with those responsible for providing Community Mental Health Services in Dorset.

If you want to share your experience with us, click here to complete our online feedback form.