In order to clearly demonstrate the progress that has been made to date around developing a community place of safety, Changing Our Lives graphically facilitated the meeting on 11th July. The graphic can be seen above, and visually lays out the development process. The meeting was chaired by Melissa Newell, a member of the People’s Parliament, who’s calm and considered approach was a boon to the ensuing discussions.

Councillor Ann Shackleton was unable to attend, but provided a statement of support for a community place of safety. She commented that “the timing of developing such a provision is crucial, especially as I heard at the L.G.A. Conference last week about the increase of people with mental health problems. Evidence shows that 1 in 4 is rapidly becoming 1 in 3. This agenda fits well with issues raised by West Midlands Mental Health Concordat and the priorities of the Health and Wellbeing Board: a focus on prevention and the need to recognise mental health conditions in the same way as physical health conditions. I would like to see more support from health commissioners in response to this agenda.”

Leon Blake, a member of the People’s Parliament, gave a brief history of the community place of safety development, starting in July 2015 when the People’s Parliament was set up. This is visualised on the graphic above. Following this, fifty-two local people with recent lived experience of mental health coproduced Sandwell’s Crisis Care Concordat action plan, which included a community place of safety. This action was then chosen as a priority by the People’s Parliament in October 2016.

Changing Our Lives and the People’s Parliament visited five community places of safety in Leeds, Stoke on Trent, Bristol, Birmingham, and Aldershot in November and December 2016. A briefing paper with best practice was then developed and sent out – pictured above as a postbox – after which the People’s Parliament held an Ideas Festival in Jan 2017. This event was community based, with local PCSOs, fire service, charities, faith groups and local individuals attending. This event was very creative and local people talked about what they want from a community place of safety. The Parliament then held a Working Group in Feb 2017, where ideas from the festival were distilled down and finer details discussed. The seeds were sown for a service specification for a community place of safety, which Leon shared at the meeting.

Following this, representatives from two existing community places of safety presented on best practice in their areas. Helen Denyer, from The Sanctuary, which is run by St Mungos in Bristol, shared an example of how The Sanctuary supported a person to stop using A&E daily. The Sanctuary is estimated to have saved Bristol CCG £450,000 over 18 months.

We then heard from Chris Herbert, from Brighter Futures in Stoke on Trent. He shared photos from Brunswick and Phoenix House, which offer a place over the weekend (Friday – Monday) for people needing mental health support, where one would not be able to tell the staff from the clients.

Both Helen and Chris emphasised that their services supported people, rather than their illnesses, which was welcomed by the People’s Parliament.

Finally, Melissa Newell laid out creative options for future steps in commissioning and setting up a community place of safety in Sandwell. These were well received by commissioners, who are keen to move away from requesting that an organisation fits itself into an immoveable service specification.

The People’s Parliament will feed back to the Health and Wellbeing Board and the Mental Health Steering Group in the next few weeks.