Sandwell Mental Health People’s Parliament update

The council chambers in Oldbury held a meeting of Sandwell’s Mental Health People’s Parliament in June 2017, where the work that the People’s Parliament will be undertaking over the next 12 months was outlined by articulate MPs. Leon Blake, MP, opened proceedings with the background to the Parliament’s formation and past successes. He also introduced a recent white paper, which was developed by the People’s Parliament and Changing Our Lives and describes the priorities of the Parliament, and can be found here: http://www.changingourlives.org/resources/reports-and-briefing-papers/

Melissa Newell, MP then led the attendees in a stimulating activity where attributes of a mental health People’s Parliament MP were ranking in order of importance on actual MPs bodies – their heads, shoulders, knees and toes to be exact, whilst a rousing version of the song bearing the same appellation played in the background. The four attributes did not include ‘lived experience of mental health’, as Melissa explained that this was not a key factor in the unique character of the parliament. Whilst everyone on the parliament has recent or current lived experience of mental health, the MPs also need to embody other characteristics, such as being outcomes and solution focussed, having commitment and passion, being a skilled communicator and being someone who can build relationships and take people with them. Lived experience of mental health is the only requirement needed for other organisations who employ consultation. However, as the People’s Parliament undertakes coproduction, it is vital that our MPs also show these additional skills in order to be successful.

Mareesha Morris, MP, then described the values and beliefs which underpin the Parliament and can be found here: http://www.changingourlives.org/resources/reports-and-briefing-papers/ She went on to inform the delegates about the developmental and monitoring work that the People’s Parliament will undertake over the next 12 months. One area currently under development by MPs is a community place of safety, which includes an Ideas Festival, working group, and a further people’s parliament on the 11th July. A second area that MPs are directly involved in developing in 2017 is Quality of Life reviews of mental health residential homes.

A Quality of Life review is a person centred way of measuring how services enable people with mental health difficulties to lead an ‘ordinary life’. Each review is measured against the Quality of Life Mental Health Standards. The standards are based on a human rights approach and talk about people being in control of their own lives, having the chance to take part in social and educational opportunities, training, volunteering and employment, as all of these things support the process of individual recovery. The reviews will be led by trained Quality of Life reviewers with recent lived experience who will work in coproduction with Changing Our Lives officers. These people will be completely independent of any of the residential care homes and residents. Review teams will carry out unannounced visits to the homes at different times of day. During this time they will observe communication and interactions between staff and residents, speak to residents and staff and look at relevant plans and documentation. This will help the review team to build a picture of robust evidence of how staff value people beyond their mental health, how they work with people to achieve personal outcomes and whether the service works for individuals or has processes and ways of working which place the ‘service’ first.

 The results of this work will not only feed into commissioning and contracts departments of both the local authority and the CCG but also be fed back to social work teams to ensure that wherever possible they are advocating for opportunities that enable people to lead fulfilled, active and valued lives in their communities. This may include supporting individuals to learn about their housing options and moving people out of inappropriate settings.

MPs will also monitor work that is being undertaken by external bodies. Monitoring work includes areas that have been put forward as priorities by the local clinical commissioning group (i.e. local NHS) and Sandwell metropolitan borough council. MPs won’t be actively working in these areas, but they will keep an eye on what is going on. The People’s Parliament will be a tool to hold people to account by asking questions about progress and make sure that these areas are moving in the right direction and achieving positive outcomes for local people.  See:  people’s parliament process

Another People’s Parliament will be held in Autumn 2017, where MPs will begin to monitor priorities set by the local council and clinical commissioning group. Please email ask@changingourlives if you would like to be invited to this, or if you wish to receive our quarterly newsletter.

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