They came, they listened, they shared

22 Jun 2015

On a rainy Wednesday, 17th June, over 100 people from the public and voluntary sector attended the second Together For You Shared Learning Event held at the Park Avenue Hotel in Belfast.

A very short video of the day can be seen here: 


The day was chaired by David Babington, Chief Executive of Action

David BabingtonMental Health, lead partner on the project and opened by the Minister for Health Simon Hamilton MLA with an inspiring talk on the contribution of the voluntary sector to mental health services, and the benefits of partnership working.

He said “I have long recognised the value of our local voluntary sector. Staff and volunteers have a personal insight into the needs of those they are helping. With this unique perspective they can often devise new, innovative and more person-centred services from those traditionally provided by the statutory sector.

“The ‘Together For You’ services complement those delivered by the five Trusts.  Indeed, it is as a result of the voluntary and statutory sectors working together that we have been able to significantly improve the lives of those living with mental health problems and progress toward the modern and diverse mental health services envisaged by Bamford.”

Listen to the Ministers speech here (thanks to Sluggar O’Tool):

Alison Fraser, Head of Funding at the Big Lottery Fund then congratulated the partnership in their success.  Alison spoke of how the ‘partnership had really galvanised over the last year, resulting in the amazing achievement of reaching over 24,000 individuals with mental health services’.

Delegates then heard from Kim McBurney and her sisters through a video produced by Together For You on the benefits of Praxis Care CBT Counselling

Watch again and find out more about Kim’s experience here:

The morning continued with a presentation from Joan McEwan from Marie Curie who spoke of the importance of partnership working within the voluntary sector, and some of the challenges and opportunities that partnership working provides. 

Joan’s presentation can be seen here.

The middle of the conference focused on the work and learning from the project so far, with partner organisations sharing their learning and experience of the partnership. Parallel sessions ran as follows:

Following lunch, Amanda Jones, Project Manager for Together For You, shared some of the learning that had been gleaned from working on the partnership project, from the development of a robust evaluation system and internal referral process to systems and procedures developed to facilitate sharing of information across and between all nine partners within Together For You.  Amanda commented on some of the challenges the partners had faced from being involved in the partnership, but also the opportunities that have been availed off since the project launched in 2013. Amanda ended her presentation with reference to Mens Health Week, and some insights from the evaluation on Men’s access to services under Together For You.  She then introduced Dr Ian Banks, President of the European Men’s Health Forum “We were delighted to welcome Dr Ian Banks to speak at the event today specifically on men’s mental health issues”.

Dr Ian Banks gave a fascinating and entertaining presentation on some of the reasons and barriers for Men accessing primary health care services, and the significant differences between men and women in terms of access to services and mental health.

His presentation can be seen here.

Following Dr Ian’s presentation, Together For You took the opportunity to showcase the work that is currently taking place within the Prisons.  This is work that has been made possible, and certainly facilitated more easily, because of the existing relationship with AMH MensSana who under the Together For You project have been delivering OCN wellbeing and personal development courses for Prisoners.  Delegates heard about the success of the OCN courses and engagement of Prisoners, the work of MindWise volunteers who are supporting Prisoners through these courses with literacy assistance, the access to advocacy support for carers of those in the forensic system through CAUSE and the increased access to counselling services through RelateNI, particularly targeting male prisoners.

The day then allowed for input from delegates in the room with some roundtable discussion on the legacy of the project. The question asked was:

How do you, as a stakeholder, feel the partnership can maximise the legacy of Together For You?

Some of the suggested comments included:

  • The learning from the ‘cross referral package’ is a positive aspect for professionals and service users to learn from”
  • “The website could continue as a depository for information after the project ends”
  • “Together For You shows that organisations don’t have to fight over money / funds, they can work together providing a range of services”
  • “Keep sharing what works well, and sharing experiences to other partnerships.”

Last, but certainly not least, was a talk from Billy Dixon, a motivational speaker, who spoke passionately about ‘resilience’, and the need to build resilience in individuals.  He spoke about his personal battle with Depression, and how he has ‘learned’ to be confident and ‘learned’ his skill for public speaking.

An audio boo of Billy Dixon’s talk can be heard here (credit to Slugger O’Tool):

The day met with some fantastic feedback, not only via social media (#TFYLearn) on but also via evaluations returned on the day.  Comments below reflect some of the feedback from the day:

  • “ has provided me with the contacts and networks to services”
  • Excellent content from speakers and Dr Ian Banks was particularly inspiring in Men’s Health Week”
  • Found the challenges and benefits of partnership working really helpful
  • “Increased community provision through collaborative working”
  • “A well organised and informative event”
  • “Knowing how to refer people will help us, and has highlighted that we could link in well with some of the partners”.
  • “With the information provided by all the organisations it will be easier to sign post the people I work with to services that will benefit them”
  • “I found today was very worthwhile coming to. I learnt a lot.  Excellent event”

Other results from the evaluation on the day can be seen below.

Over 92% rated the guest speaker presentations as excellent, and 100% rated the partner presentations as either excellent or good (left).

All attendants believed they could use the learning achived in their own organisations (right).

When delegates were asked if they would be more likely to make a referral to Together For You, over 97% said yes.

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