Advocacy is all about helping people who use services to speak up, to be heard and to have influence – in other words to be involved in their own lives and in anything that impacts on their lives. Touchstone’s Kirklees Advocacy Service was designed from the ground up to achieve that.
Here’s some of the ways that the service helped people to get more involved during 2016-2017

1. Involvement in planning your own support

Many of our referrals are from people wishing to challenge decisions about their mental health support. Our work helps them to feel more in control of their care and support, ensuring that they are listened to and involved in decision making. Our clients tell us that this enables them to access the right services to help them towards their recovery. Feeling empowered and in control of things is very important to mental wellbeing and we are proud to see a 29% improvement recorded in this area.

“I stood my ground and realised I really do have a voice when needed and expressing this has increased 100% since my advocate came on board.”

“My advocate helped me to get my voice heard. She was always respectful, listened to everything I had to say and helped me to put it in better words for them to hear me.”

2. Involvement in your community

We continue to support and encourage people to be involved in their local communities so that they meet people, create opportunities and help each other. Mental health difficulties can make it hard for people to feel able to engage with others. We work hard to reduce people’s isolation, encouraging them to engage locally with people other than support services and professionals. This year we have helped people to achieve a 19% improvement in this area. (When we first meet people we ask them to score how they feel about 10 areas of their life, where 1/10 is the worst that things could be and 10/10 is the best that things could be – that’s how we measure improvement.)

“I didn’t think I deserved help. Now I make a valuable contribution to society.”

“You’ve helped me to be more pro-active and positive, to meet new friends and try new experiences.”

3. Involvement in the future of mental health services

Our biggest and proudest achievement has to be the creation of “Meeting of Minds” – the new service user forum for Kirklees. Through a huge amount of effort, energy and collaboration, Touchstone has enabled a group of people to completely redesign how service users can connect with each other and with both statutory and community services across our locality. Meeting of Minds has already been recognised by the Kirklees Mental Health Partnership Board as representing the future of service user involvement; creating roles where people can be leaders and have a very real impact and influence on service design and delivery.
In May 2016, MoM held its public launch event after months of consultation, design and planning. We started the year with 6 core members who came together and designed our terms of reference We have now grown to over 45 members and there are big plans to continue growing.
Have a look at the Facebook page where we enable people to stay connected with us and each other…
In its first year, MoM has already become the go-to group for statutory services in Kirklees who want to connect directly with service users and hear our views, ideas and experiences. We meet monthly in various locations across Kirklees and are always open to new members. This year we have had SWYPFT, Kirklees Council and the DWP come to our meetings to listen to us and answer our questions. This puts service users more in the driving seat of what’s actually happening in mental health services locally and gives us an excellent platform to affect change.

“Your support made me feel valued, respected and calm, which ultimately helped me focus on the task ahead.”

“Now I see that I do have a lot to offer, if I just channel it in the right way. I am worth listening to and I have a voice.”