This is a guest blog from one of the winners of the 2019 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) – it focuses on the PF Counselling Service, written by Director, Alison Hampton.
PF Counselling Services, which has been established for over 30 years, is a professional, caring, COSCA-recognised organisation which plays an important part in the delivery of mental health services and talking therapies in Edinburgh.
Doing the right thing isn’t always the easy thing.
It’s good to see media support for drug and alcohol funding, although of course sad that the stark drug related deaths figures released this week were needed to bring this about. Drug related deaths are an indicator of the increasing pressures but are unfortunately only the tip of the iceberg.
It’s always helpful to have the profile of this issue raised but important to read the comments I made in context. On June 21st I made a deputation on behalf of the Substance Use Network Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Mental Health Forum to the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board (IJB) in opposition to a proposal to absorb underspend from two streams of Scottish Government funding into the IJB’s deficit – £1.78m in total. This proposal was particularly hard to take because the underspend had been incurred due to the IJB not considering spending plans immediately after they were prepared almost a year before.
The in depth discussion that followed the deputation was balanced and considered. Members of the IJB decided to reject the proposal to direct the funding towards the overall deficit. They indicated support for the money being spent on what it was intended for, and a recognition of the level of need for these services. We need to get final sign off on spending the funds at the August IJB meeting, and we look forward to being able to improve the outcomes for the people this funding was intended for.
I can’t pretend to support or understand the decisions that took place leading to the delay in considering the spending plans and to proposing that the money be diverted elsewhere. But I do understand the degree of pressure on the IJB to support increasing levels of need with an ever tighter budget.
It’s yet another painful demonstration of the inevitable impacts of austerity. In May the UN Poverty Rapporteur described a nation with a ‘harsh and uncaring ethos’ that I felt ashamed to be part of. Numbers of homeless people are rising and the health challenges associated with this are predictably dire. This week we’re struck by drug related deaths. It won’t stop until we recognise that austerity is at the heart of all these issues, and that public services can never be slashed without devastating human consequences.
You can watch the deputation and discussion here.
Maria Arnold, Senior Development Worker (Adult Health & Wellbeing)
At the end of May the UN’s final report on the impact of austerity on human rights in the UK was published. Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty sets out a damning 21 pages.
“Close to 40 per cent of children are predicted to be living in poverty by 2021. Food banks have proliferated; homelessness and rough sleeping have increased greatly; tens of thousands of poor families must live in accommodation far from their schools, jobs and community networks; life expectancy is falling for certain groups; and the legal aid system has been decimated.”
He describes a government which has remained determinedly in a state of denial. In response, perhaps not appreciating the irony, the UK Government have dismissed the report as ‘barely believable’.
Reading it I felt the opposite – that it was a horrifyingly accurate picture of the society we have come to expect if not quite accept. I wonder if ‘barely believable’ rings true for the many organisations supporting communities dealing with the many and varied impacts of austerity?
I thought I’d at least sign the petition to make sure it’s debated in Parliament but was disappointed to see that there was one posted at the end of last year (after the interim report) which only attracted 63 signatures and has now closed. One on greyhound muzzling got twice as many. But seriously, in allowing Government to dismiss the report without any kind of fuss we’re basically sending a message that they can go right ahead.
And I do believe that our collective attitudes and diminishing expectations are part of the problem. Alston describes the bottom line being that “much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos. A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.”
Scotland and Wales are recognised in the report as having taken certain steps to protect people from the worst impacts of austerity, but that there are quickly limits to the mitigation that is possible. I’d imagine more is always possible, but the role of Scottish Government is surely not to mitigate the negative impacts of decisions in Westminster.
I wondered if Edinburgh at the very least should be sending a message that we’re not prepared to live in the society described by Philip Alston and we’re not prepared to see the difficult reality of many people diminished.
EVOC as a first step are committing to find a way to meaningfully raise this with local partners in Edinburgh such as the NHS, City of Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board. Nationally we will try to get a motion raised in Holyrood.
Any feedback or ideas? Please do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.
FOCUS ON: ART IN ACTION
‘If your world’s never interesting and always predictable, eventually you will keep your eyes shut and you don’t need to see it because you know exactly what’s going on round about you, you become almost totally desensitised to everything. It’s a kind of learned dis-engagement.’
The Scottish Contemporary Arts Network launched the Art in Action campaign to champion the valuable role visual art plays within communities across Scotland – and to call for stronger recognition of this value when it comes to decision-making.
Art has the power to move us, to look at ourselves and those around us through a different lens – to bring into focus and celebrate different ways of being. Art creates a space to reflect on who we are, it informs a common language, often where none has existed. Artlink’s Ideas Team and sensory work is one of the case studies for the Art in Action campaign. The work creates experiences where we take the time to learn from each other and change happens as a result. It reinforces the message that culture and creativity are not an add-on; that they are part and parcel of how we live our lives.
Watch the film: a film has been produced to accompany the written case study – click here to view.
Find out more: The Ripple Effect – research report on the impact of contemporary arts practices on people with profound and multiple learning disabilities by The University of Dundee and Pamis.https://www.artlinkedinburgh.co.uk/
“Brilliant, practical way of building a training course”…. The “Training for Trainers course was very helpful in learning the do’s and don’t as well as how to design a programme incorporating all learning styles.”…. “Duncan’s course is well-structured and inclusive of different professions (not always a given!”
This week I’ve been training 8 trainers on the Training for Trainers course I do with EVOC. The trainers were all from different types of organisations doing a range of training from trauma courses to legal courses. Collectively their training courses reaches into most areas of the world that i care about deeply, work that is improving social justice because staff and volunteers are getting properly trained.
Which means I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the importance of learning to learn. When we learn, we breath better, we grow, we love our work a bit more. Yet so often the learning provision, the training courses and the context of our busy busy busy organisations don’t give us permission to take time to learn… Or that’s what we tell ourselves, and thats why we put up with poor learning provision in organisations. Some of the CEO’s that i work with as a coach get frustrated with this. Many of the staff and volunteers i work with are a bit de-moralised by the sense of having to not just do more for less, but actually not being adequately supported in the process.
We do all learn differently, and if you haven’t done a recent Learning Styles Questionnaire then i recommend you do. Because actually getting to know you learning styles is a really important part of learning how to pick the best routes for your own professional learning. Many people don’t learn much from talks and presentations. Many people only learn from books and presentations. video link to social conformity and learning styles
I recommend you look for the work of Kolb plus Peter Honey and Alan Mumford on Learning Styles to dig a bit deeper than the surface on understanding how you or others learn best.
Yet there is a hilarious and challenging other aspect to all this which is the factor of Social Conformity. If you haven’t studied behavioural science, then have a look at this simple science experiment from the National Geographic folk. Even the experienced trainers i was working with this week were shocked at how quickly social conformity in all types of groups becomes a major asset or deficit in learning.
Which is very much why i tend to use the Juggling Together activity to illustrate the ability of teams, systems and organisations to learn and handle pressure well. Within 5 minutes i got those people juggling 50% more things than they thought they were capable of. 5 minutes of coaching and the group becomes stronger and more capable. We live in a world that wants more for less, driven by efficiency. Yet efficiency cannot be achieved without learning systems. Co-creating learning systems and co-creating learning organisations is one of the core capacities that i build. I’ve been an Organisational Development practitioner for 20 years now, and the key thing is always to learn, to capacity build. To develop the capacity of the community. It is a form of community development. This is important because culture always eats strategy for breakfast, as Peter Druker is famous for pointing out.
If you would like to learn more about all this, or better still, invite me to come in to your organisation and review with you your learning culture, then that would be a total pleasure.
My experience is that organisations, businesses and governments that don’t enjoy learning together, don’t progress, are not efficient and create more inequalities or climate change without realising it. I can help you reverse this.
“The course was very useful in writing and evaluating training”
I also love co-training, co-consulting alongside internal leaders and of course i have a lot of fun training folk too. My next training for trainers course is with SCVO at the beginning of June, its at an introductory level, which is always good fun.
Things are moving along nicely with the next recovery project in Edinburgh. Discussions and plans are underway with regards to the long term project, taking into account things like locations, social enterprise involvement and other operational considerations.
The interim project, now called ERA – Edinburgh Recovery Activities – will be live soon, following input from the community on activities and ideas. The purpose of the project is to provide fulfilling, fun and enjoyable experiences for the recovery community whilst the core, longer term project is organised.
ERA projects will hopefully link in with the new base once it opens its doors. The most popular suggestions that we recorded in the early part of 2019 revolved around the need for green space activities, personal development classes like yoga, and a social event open to those in recovery and their family members. We also have an exciting opportunity to set up something along the lines of a practical skills program. We will get these up and running as soon as possible so please get in touch to offer ideas or support.
This is just the beginning – we’re looking for other suggestions too, maybe creative groups, outings to places of interest, walking groups, sports groups, training days, club nights – whatever the community feels would be beneficial and provide valuable experiences.
Working across the community with those in many stages of recovery, we’re keen to help build connections, adding to the feeling of support and unity. Whatever it looks like, we need it to be firmly based on ideas and suggestions from the recovery community above all. Please feel free to send me over suggestions and ideas which I’ll then set about gauging interest with other community members and making the necessary arrangements for the group or activity to take place.
I’ve been speaking with individuals and organisations who run venues, centres and halls in order to facilitate groups that might be suggested. Likewise, if there’s an interest in a particular group that isn’t venue dependent, I can organise that too.
We’re also keen to link in with other organisations around Edinburgh providing complementary support. We will also set up a process for offering micro funding for relevant groups and projects delivering on specific criteria which align with ERA’s goals and principles.
For any information, idea contributions, volunteering or anything else, you can contact me via email at Michael.email@example.com or on 0131 555 9100.
The success of the project lies in the effort and drive of the recovery community, something that we’ve seen can do amazing things so far. Let’s keep it going.
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/EdinburghRecoveryActivities
Twitter – @EdinburghRecov1
Instagram – EdinburghRecoveryActivities19
EVOC and NHS Lothian have been working together since December 2018 to consult people about Urgent Care Out of Hours. We have met with groups of older people, carers and people accessing mental health services in North West Edinburgh, and more widely, during February to hear people’s experiences.
We have gathered everyone’s views to produce a report which will be used to inform the Out of Hours Primary Care Transformation Programme, which aims to improve services so that people get the right care, in the right place, at the right time.
We were pleased to work with Media Education and some of those consulted, to produce this short film about people’s experiences of accessing urgent care out of hours. Many thanks to all involved.
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who took part in the survey, focus groups, discussions and the event. Your thoughts and opinions have been invaluable and will serve as a great foundation for where we go from here.
The findings from the research period painted a picture of what the Edinburgh recovery community feels needs to happen next. Essentially: open 7 days a week, central, fixed location, a safe place staffed in large part by those in recovery which provides personal development opportunities.
Click here for the report covering the whole research process, the findings and the recommendations for what will happen next. The recommended next steps in the report were agreed at the Edinburgh Alcohol and Drug Partnership (EADP) Core Group meeting on 11th March.
One of the most exciting things this means is that more money will be allocated to the future project. In the past, the EADP had been supporting Serenity to the sum of £60,000 a year. However, based on the needs for the new project and the strong case made by all involved, this funding has been increased to £175,000. Along with this sum, we’re aiming to find complementary funding streams to further support the project.
It’s a complex project and there needs to be considerable planning and appropriate structures put in place. It needs to be robust, and sustainable, so it’s going to require time and continued input from the recovery community. We’re hoping that about this time next year , the new project will open its doors for the first time.
Of course we need to be doing something else in the meantime! What came across strongly in the research was the importance of the social aspect of the recovery community. The sense of safety, friendship, opportunity and community at Serenity made a massive difference to many people.
So EVOC, working in partnership with people and organisations across Edinburgh, are starting to put together a programme of recovery inspired and focused events, activities, outings, groups and opportunities. The hope is to get this off the ground as soon as possible, with consistent input from the recovery community. We’ll be looking for ideas of what could be held or organised in the coming weeks and months. The community has a fantastic wealth of talent and we want to encourage members to come forwards with any skills or ideas they’d like to share. The community’s input has been instrumental in getting this far and will continue to be central in shaping both the interim and the longer term project.
Please get in touch with any ideas or questions – you can put comments on the e-mail, give me a call or I can come and meet you.
0131 555 9100