A blog by Public Advisor, Alison Bryant
January and February have been so, so busy. I am active as a member of the PPN NW EbE steering group (Psychological Professions Network North West, Experts by Experience), ARC NWC (Applied Research Collaboration, North West Coast) and also of the LExE (Liverpool Experts by Experience) group that supports the Liverpool University DClin programme (Doctorate in Clinical Psychology). Service user involvement, EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) and health equity are my passions so I was really thrilled to be involved in the recent ARC NWC forum focussed on research and health equity.
On Thursday February 9th the ARC NWC Public Advisors gathered together to learn more in a training workshop on the Heath Inequalities Assessment Toolkit (HIAT) to apply in research and to refresh, renew and remind ourselves as public advisors about health equity. This was delivered by Katerina Panagaki, Senior Research Associate and Health Equity Mainstreaming Lead from the Department of Health Research Lancaster University. Not only are sessions like this vital to informing and upskilling the Public Advisors at ARC NWC, but also the skills we develop are transferable to every area that we are involved in, adding value to teaching, research and shaping (in my case with the Liverpool DClin programme) the next generation of clinical psychologists, not only to benefit them in their practice but also the service users they will work with.
The forum also gave attendees the opportunity to network and build new friendships with advisors from across the North West coast to expand our knowledge, inform us about the research which public advisors are engaged with and explore perspectives around health inequities and inequalities and how to apply this to research. As well as all of this, it was a beautiful day and we enjoyed some social time over lunch on the sunny roof terrace at Liverpool Central Library! Many thanks to Katerina, Ruth, Selina and Naheed for making this event such a success!
I am delighted to be able to share with you this month the work of Learning Together, North West Limited. Please look at their websitewww.learningtogethernw.org.uk to learn more about the group than I can share with you here in the space of a blog. It is really important to share examples of best practice and Learning Together are a model and award-winning example of what can happen when EbE’s work together to create change for services through training and how that experience also impacts them on a personal level.
I was lucky enough to catch up with the Learning Together group at the end of January. In alphabetical order, let me introduce you to Bev, Brian, Gillian, Jean, Mark, Philip and Ruth.
So, just to start, a little bit of history about the group. In 2013 Learning Together North West Limited was set up with the focus for its EbE members to break down barriers around disability awareness, to promote equality and to train others using their EbE perspective and lived experience, to make the future a better place. Their work gained the group the Selnet Lancashire Small Social Enterprise Award in 2015, a hugely well-deserved accolade for this dynamic team. It is important for me to share with everyone reading this blog the authentic voices of the team and the energy of every individual so, in answer to my questions: “How does being an EbE trainer benefit others and yourself, and why are you involved?”, here are some quotes to bring you their individual views:
Bev: “I set up a social enterprise so the team would get paid for the work they do”.
“We want to make a difference and work with professionals to enable them to be the best they can be”.
Brian: “The labels people put on you are not the true picture of who you are”.
“When I do the training they get to know the real Brian”.
Gillian: “I like training psychologists to enable them to walk in our shoes”.
“Training and stories, it’s important sharing what people have to say”.
Jean: “People can listen to our stories and it makes them understand”.
“Learning from each other, makes them understand more”.
Mark: “I found training challenging, but I’m more confident now and get a buzz out of it”.
“I work with trainees (clinical psychologists) to be the best they can be”.
Philip: “Sharing with the students our stories, it’s learning together to make a better future”.
Ruth: “Sharing ‘personal stories of what it’s like to be me, growing confident in a safe environment”.
“They can see us and understand it’s a two-way street”.
The group’s mantra is ‘see the person, not the label’ and a vital message given on the Learning Together website from their work is ‘don’t DIS our Ability!’.
The team work with the Lancaster University clinical psychology programme in the selection process, an exciting involvement which ensures that the best people are selected for training through the lens of lived experience.
I came away from that meeting inspired and energised by the dynamic of these passionate people working together to make vital connections as EbE’s through their work. I wish them every opportunity to shout their mantra out loud and clear to an even wider audience, to be able to demonstrate how important their lived experience, commitment and work is. So my thanks to everyone at Learning Together North West Limited for taking time away from your work to meet me and make me welcome- I hope to meet you all again soon.
While typing this blog the sun has been a welcome companion-what a difference the blue sky can bring to mood and wellbeing. Equally I know the benefits to me that being in blue or green spaces can make. I urge anyone reading this blog to visit a park or to really look for signs of spring as you walk down the street to boost your physical and mental health or prompted by this poem to just visualise a green space.
Water softly trickles into a deep, dark pool,
my forest cushion velvet sphagnum moss.
The air is cool, scented, woody green
I take slow long breaths, longer, slower exhalations.
I count, the practice familiar, grounding,
my chattering mind stilled, anxiety and tension waning.
In meditation, conscious of nothing, of everything,
fear, emotions let go without judgement.
I begin again refreshed, renewed,
the gift of nature’s healing balm.
Copyright © Alison Bryant, 2021
Finally next month more on the launch of the PPN NW animation. The animation explores the benefits of incorporating EbE involvement in research, training and shaping services. I am happy to report it is making an impact already from the feedback that has come our way ( thank you Laura) if you have not watched this please find it on YouTube.
Also by way of farewell, an interview with Clare Baguley the Psychological Professions Network Programme Manager & HEE NW Clinical Workforce Lead who has been instrumental at the PPN NW to reflect on her experiences, as she retires, on what has resonated with her and on her hopes for the future.
Please reach out to the PPN NW EbE steering group with any requests for help or suggestions of content for the blog.
Until next month take care of yourselves
This blog can be found in an adapted form on the PPN NW website