Innovations in community-centred support goes global

Two TLAP partners feature in recent WHO guidance on community mental health services. This blog by Karyn Kirkpatrick from KeyRing and Alex Fox, from Shared Lives Plus reflects on what innovation means to them and how we can all learn from each other.

Innovation? How many organisations are truly innovative? Once your breakthrough service has reached the market it isn’t new anymore, it’s out there to be copied. Realistically the only way organisations can continue to innovate is by improving. Continuing to evolve. Organisations can’t be precious about what they do. It’s out there for people to learn from. Likewise, they must learn from others. 

This year the World Health Organisation released guidance on community mental health services: promoting person-centred and rights-based approaches. It features 28 services from across the globe that support people to gain or regain purpose in their lives. They demonstrate how services can be provided within a legal framework, protect human rights, and promote legal capacity whilst avoiding coercion.

From the Friendship Bench in Zimbabwe to the Open Dialogue service in Lapland and, a little closer to home, KeyRing and Shared Lives Plus, all of the services demonstrate that we still have so much to learn from each other. There are so many more ways to innovate beyond what we are already delivering. The guidance seeks to inform people responsible for the provision of mental health care at all levels of the benefits of such community services. It should come as no surprise that cost comparisons indicate that these services can be provided at the same or lower cost than mainstream mental health services, and achieve equal or better outcomes.

For example, an evaluation carried out by TLAP partner Housing LIN demonstrated both cashable savings and preventative savings with financial savings of £400K across 30 people supported by KeyRing. Sally, who is supported in the Oldham service said:

“You make me feel like a normal human being rather than a statistic or someone who doesn't have their own mind”.

Support like those featured in the guidance puts people at the centre of their own life. Before a person is discharged from a mental health ward, the South East Wales Shared Lives Mental Health Crisis team undertake a careful matching process. The person is actively involved in the next stage of their recovery journey. Mags, a Shared Lives carer, said: “The person who comes to your house is a human being – we have interests in common and we get on!  People start to live normally again.”

Great asset-based support options like these examples and those in the TLAP directory of community-centred support (known as the rainbow) are often piloted and cited as good practice. Isn’t it time that good practice becomes the norm? Innovation should be embedded in our service delivery and review processes. It must be central to everything we do. That is how our services will deliver the quality that people have the right to expect. 

TLAP is always interested in hearing about innovative practice and would like to invite new examples for its directory. Apply here


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