WELCOME TO ALL FELLOW CAMPAIGNERS for DISABILITY RIGHTS - a pan disability blog connecting my work with, EQUAL LIVES, the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) and the Survivor History Group.

Protest, Norwich Job Centre

Protest, Norwich Job Centre
Fatso Gets Militant!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

"Keys to Power - Service Users Take the Lead"

I've always had a little quirk. The first time I saw the road sign "Ramp Ahead" my first thought was 'How do I ramp ahead?' Good verb though - I can see the instructor: "Right lads, get it right this time. Steady now - get prepared.....and.....RAMP."

So it came to pass that when I saw the title of our Manchester conference I immediately thought it was an Alexander Armstrong catch-phrase resulting in the Sun headline: "Shoot All Service Users."

Ironically, the use of understandable and unambiguous words and language was a consistent topic at the seminar. Ah well! All in the/my mind perhaps!

But the seminar was a terrific success. People, a majority of mental health service users, from:

Stoke on Trent

All warmly talking to each other, learning from each other, making links with each other, sharing experiences with each other. Organisations and groups:

Golden Gates Housing
Kuumba Foundation
Kindness in Mind (KIM)
Ubuntu GroupLocal Mind organisations
Alpha Hosp[itals
Presbyterian Church in Ireland
Leeds Survivor-led Crisis Service
Changes from Stoke on Trent
NHS North West

Trading information with each other, proudly headlining their achievements, demonstrating visible and powerful evidence that Survivors/Users can make a huge difference for wellbeing - and gathering growing confidence and collective authority in the process.

There was so much to learn from each other:

The Leeds Dial House, a sanctuary/asylum house for crisis intervention which was celebrating its tenth anniversary the day after the Seminar. An award winning facility entirely run by users and survivors, successfully providing a real alternative to compulsory admission and defaulting in specialising with attempted suicide and self-harm. Respected and well used by mental health professionals and living proof that users and survivors can provide real and effective peer to peer services.

An introduction to Catch-a-Fiya by Patricia Chambers. Catch-a-Fiya is an organisation supporting black users and survivors and their office is NSUN's base, so we have warm extended team relationships with them. We were entertained by Patricia's 13 year survivor history of peer to peer support, especially that which took place in hospital.

Bromley MIND which runs user led open access day centres and the community hearing voices group. We has a great interactive session with them.

Barbara Wain who after stabilising her severe bi-polar condition in 1988, with a friend set up the informal support network which developed into the facility challenging the medical model, "Changes." in Stoke on Trent. User to user help and support which has now developed into a multi award winning service with several branches which has 31 service users in full employment there.

An educative session by Carey Bamber from NHS North West outlining the history and up-to-date development of the Personalisation Agenda.

And, not least, Tina Coldham, our Chair updated everyone on current developments in NSUN - the North East networks, the Canterbury project for Kent Networks and the introduction of Carolyn Anderson from Kent and myself from Norfolk as new members of the management committee. Most importantly for me, Tina announced the advent in the new year of complete independence for NSUN as a charity in its own right (the hosting by Together has always been a matter of discord by some service users/survivors but in reality NSUN has always been independent). Our independence will also be celebrated with a redesigned website.

All in all a wonderful collective experience with, as far as I could see, everyone leaving feeling good and fired up.

Just one semantic niggle for me though: glancing back at the beginning, I also have some discomfort with the word "power" in this context and maybe 'Keys to Empowerment' would have been better - but that's food for another posting.


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The Tough Tenor (when I could walk)!

In a Mellotone

In a Mellotone
Ah sweet Youffff