Connectedness as a component of recovery

Social connections are important to most of us. We need people around us to share our lives with – the blossoming of online social network sites in the last decade is visible evidence of this.

When people experience mental health difficulties they frequently also experience a shrinking in their networks. People ebb away due to the stigma of mental health difficulties and individuals’ own problems in maintaining their social connections.

Mental health social workers have an important role to play in supporting people experiencing mental health problems to maintain their social connections. On 27th February, Making Research Count are organising a seminar in York for social workers and social care workers to discuss and engage with three research projects which explore the role of workers in enhancing the networks of people with mental health problems:

  • The Connecting People study has developed and is piloting an intervention model for mental health services to help people to enhance their social connections. It is funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research.
  • The Community Health Networks study has mapped the networks of people with severe mental illness to explore the importance of people, places and activities in supporting recovery and investigate the (potential) role of primary care and secondary mental health services in community network maintenance and development. It is funded by the NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research programme.
  • Connected Communities is an action research programme that explores social network approaches to social and economic challenges and opportunities. It focuses on understanding, mapping and mobilising networks of support and co-producing action with local communities in a way that takes into account what is already there. It is funded by the Big Lottery.

The seminar will provide practitioners with an opportunity to engage with the emerging findings of these studies and to reflect on what they mean for social work and social care practice with people with mental health problems.

A final plenary session will be chaired by Dr Ruth Allen, Director of Social Work at South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust and Chair of the Faculty of Mental Health at the College of Social Work, which will explore the implications of these studies for mental health practice.

Practitioners will take away intervention models they can use in their practice to help individuals engage with their networks or  communities. They will have an enhanced understanding about the role of communities and networks in an individual’s life and how they can assist recovery. Community and asset-mapping techniques will be discussed to provide practitioners with tools they can use in their practice.

For more information and details about how to book a place, please visit the Making Research Count website.


Connecting People on Film

The NIHR School for Social Care Research has funded the creation of short films to accompany training materials for the Connecting People Intervention.

The films have been created by Trafford Community TV, a social enterprise spun-off from the Trafford well-being centre blueSCI who are participating in the Connecting People Study.

The films have been developed to assist training sessions about the Connecting People Intervention model. They feature practitioners talking about aspects of their practice within the context of the model. The different opinions expressed by them are certain to provoke discussion in training sessions when workers explore what they think about the practice involved in supporting people to develop or maintain their social connections.

All the films can be viewed via the menus on this website.

An introduction to the films can be found by clicking ‘training‘ in the menu above.

Drop-down menus from this link take you to the following 12 pages:

Question 1. How should I view the person that I am working with?

Question 2. How can I manage boundaries with an individual?

Question 3.How can I keep building on my own community knowledge?

Question 4. How do I overcome barriers faced by working in this way?

Question 5. How do I identify in what areas I can best help an individual?

Question 6. How can I get someone to try something new?

Question 7. How can I help someone to move on?

Question 8. How can I link an individual to someone new?

Question 9. How can I help the individual to overcome barriers?

Question 10. What kind of environment works best?

Question 11. How does this fit with our existing practice?

Question 12. How can our agency form better links with our community?

Each page has a short film and a PDF document with some suggested exercises for use in the training session. They can be used in sequence or dipped in to as required.

Additionally, we created videos, animations and case studies to illustrate what the Connecting People model is all about. These can be accessed via ‘the model‘ link in the above menu. For example, the film below features workers talking about their thoughts about the model:

Finally, the research team talk through what the model is all about:

Click this image to watch the connecting people intervention model

Click image above to watch the Connecting People Intervention model video

We are keen to hear what you think about the films. Please leave us a comment to let us know what you think about them.

Connecting People Study presentations

Dr Martin Webber gave two presentations about the Connecting People study at an NIHR School for Social Care Research mental health research seminar on Thursday 5th December 2013 in London.

The seminar heard presentations from:

  • Jerry Tew on family approaches to reablement
  • Julia Stroud on service user and practitioner experiences of Community Treatment Orders
  • Eva Cyhlarova on direct payments for people who lack capacity
  • Rich Watts on employment supports for people with mental health problems

Slides from the event will be posted on the NIHR School for Social Care Research in due course. However, in the meantime here are the two presentations he gave on the Connecting People Study:

Presentation #1: Developing a social capital intervention for people with psychosis: an ethnographic study of social capital generation and mobilisation

Presentation #2: Social care interventions that promote social participation and well-being: A mixed methods study

To get a flavour of the discussion during the event, please click on the link below to take you to the twitter stream:


Social work perspectives on Connecting People

Earlier this year the Connecting People study team successfully obtained an additional grant from the NIHR School for Social Care Research (who are funding the study) to produce training materials and short films about the Connecting People intervention model. The films and training package will be made available on the this website in the early autumn for anyone to use.

In the course of the filming, we have captured the perspectives of practitioners and service users about how the Connecting People intervention process works and what its outcomes are. We are finding out more about this in the study itself, but the films vividly capture individuals’ experiences of the impact of the model on their work and lives. The first of these films will be uploaded shortly to YouTube as a taster of what’s to come.

Anticipating the release of these film clips, The College of Social Work interviewed Rob Goemans (Professional Social Work Lead) and Jackie Stallard (Mental Health Social Worker) for the July edition of their online magazine Social Work Matters. Rob and Jackie both work for the Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust where they are piloting the Connecting People intervention model.

Rob described Connecting People as “more than just an intervention. It’s an overall framework of how social workers, other professionals and services work with people with mental health needs”. He went on to speak about his hopes for the model in providing an overarching framework for mental health social work backed up by research evidence.

Jackie spoke about how the model provides hope to mental health social workers who, in many places, have become disillusioned by mental health trusts obsessed with targets and squeezing out social perspectives. “My priority is the person I’m working with and helping them achieve the best quality of life they can,” she said.

The full article and clips from the interview can be viewed online in Social Work Matters (flash is required).

Alternatively, a PDF version of the magazine can be downloaded here.


Social Work Matters is a magazine for members of The College of Social Work, but is reproduced here with the kind permission of its editor, Mark Ivory.

Connecting People cartoon strip

Today I presented some information about the Connecting People Intervention model to a conference of mental health social workers in Hertfordshire Partnership University Foundation NHS Trust. There was considerable interest in the model, though the practitioners were aware of the institutional barriers they are facing which make it unlikely that it can be implement there just yet.

There was a conference cartoonist who expertly documented the presentations in pictorial format. The full range of pictures and my thoughts about the day are on my blog, but here are the ones about the Connecting People study:

20130719_142751 20130719_142836 20130719_153857Please let us know what you think about them. If you have a cartoon or experience about the Connecting People study to share, please drop us a line. Thank you!


Connecting People goes global!

This week the Centre for Mental Health Social Research at the University of York announced funding for a new project to explore the feasibility of adapting the Connecting People Intervention model for use in Sierra Leone. The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust and the University of York via the Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2).

The grant will fund the Connecting People study researcher, Meredith Newlin, in collaboration with Dr Susie Whitwell from King’s Centre for Global Health, to visit Sierra Leone in July 2013 to explore how social interventions can help to meet the needs of people with mental health problems. The study will use ethnographic methods to evaluate the feasibility of adapting the Connecting People Intervention model and developing a sustainable training programme.

Early discussions with the Government of Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, service providers, NGOs, and the Mental Health Coalition, indicate the need to strengthen skill training in Sierra Leone to support existing services with evidence-based solutions. Findings from the study will be used to enable us to co-produce interventions with collaborators in Sierra Leone, which will ensure that Western approaches are not imposed where they may be inappropriate.

There is increasing evidence to suggest that the application of knowledge in developing countries is failing. A gap exists between what is known from research and what is done to apply it. To address this gap we aim to evaluate the knowledge transfer of psychosocial interventions for adults with mental disorders in low and middle income countries using a systematic review and preliminary data from this feasibility study in Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organisation has long been concerned about the gap between the high numbers of people with mental health problems and the limited availability of medication. This treatment gap is particularly large in low and middle income countries. However, Western medicine and therapy is arguably not universally appropriate.

Social interventions can help to fill the treatment gap for people with mental health problems in low and middle income countries. They receive a low priority from funding bodies, but have the potential to improve the quality of life, social participation and well-being of people experiencing mental distress. Our exploratory work will determine whether or not it will be possible to adapt the Connecting People Intervention and co-produce a version for the local context in Sierra Leone. Working with collaborators in Sierra Leone led by Dr Carmen Valle (University of Makeni), we aim to see if this is possible.

This first project for the new Centre for Mental Health Social Research at the University of York is an international collaboration involving Dr Elizabeth Hughes (Mental Health and Addictions Research Group, Department of Health Sciences, University of York), Dr Oliver Johnson (King’s College London), Professor David Morris (University of Central Lancashire)  and Dr Lynette Joubert (University of Melbourne, Australia).

Connecting People at Conference

The Connecting People study was presented to the European Conference for Social Work Research (ECSWR) in Finland in March. This international conference brought together social work academics from across Europe and beyond.


I (Martin) presented two papers on behalf of the research team. The first discussed the methodology of the pilot study and presented some baseline data (abstract below). It was sandwiched between a paper on Kellogg’s approach to programme evaluation from Germany and one on critical realism from Finland. I received questions about how we are measuring fidelity to the Connecting People Intervention, which has prompted us to review our fidelity measure in our next team meeting to ensure it is fit for purpose.

paper 1The second was part of a symposium on randomised controlled trials in social work organised by Jonathan Scourfield of Cardiff University. I spoke about the development of the Connecting People Intervention model, which is the first phase of the development, evaluation and implementation of complex social interventions. This was followed by three UK examples of intervention trials in social work and a glimpse of how they work in Australia. Although frequently problematic and pragmatic, these types of study are helping to provide rigorous evidence about the effectiveness of social work practice.

paper 1

Our pilot study is helping us to evaluate if the Connecting People Intervention improves outcomes for people using social work, social care and health services. Its findings will inform practice and future grant applications to conduct a randomised controlled trial, if it appears effective.

We are now in the final phase of recruitment of participants for the study – just one more month to go until recruitment closes. A huge ‘thank you’ to all the agencies, practitioners and service users participating in the study so far!


A view from the inside

Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust are one of the 15 agencies participating in the Connecting People study. Social workers there are busily recruiting participants for the study until recruitment closes on 30th April.

The February issue of the Mental Health Research Network (MHRN) newsletter Mental Health Researcher, which provides news from the MHRN East Midlands and South Yorkshire hub, featured an article on the Connecting People study. It provides a valuable insight into what taking part in this study involves and what practitioners think of the Connecting People Intervention model:

Lincolnshire article

Connecting People Workshop: Free event!

You are invited to join the Connecting People study team and participating agencies for a workshop exploring good practice in the context of the Connecting People Intervention.

The workshop will be held at the King’s College London Strand Campus on Friday 15th February from 10am to 1pm, followed by a networking lunch.

This workshop is open to anyone to find out more about how the Connecting People Intervention could provide a model for social capital interventions in mental health and social care services.

To book a place at the workshop, please contact

Please click here to download a PDF version of the flyer to circulate via email.

We look forward to meeting you soon.

CP workshop

















The Connecting People Study is funded by NIHR School for Social Care Research.

Engage with the Connecting People Study in 2013

2012 has been a very busy year for the Connecting People Study team. We completed the ethnographic research and developed the Connecting People Intervention (CPI) model via focus groups and a Delphi Consultation. We recruited 18 agencies to pilot the intervention and have undertaken training in 15 so far. We are now in the midst of recruiting the participants for the evaluation of this pilot and undertaking baseline interviews. This process will continue throughout 2013.

In addition to undertaking the study in 2013, we will be involved in a series of events throughout the year to introduce the Connecting People Intervention to a wider constituency of practitioners, managers, commissioners and users of health and social care services. Although we don’t yet have data on its effectiveness, we would like to engage potential stakeholders in discussions about its implementation to help refine the intervention and broaden its impact.  These will include workshops, seminars and conference papers. The first three have already been scheduled.

In early February I am hosting a visit from some researchers from Rosklide University in Denmark. Making Research Count at York have organised a half-day seminar to allow interested people to hear more about their research. I will be talking about the Connecting People study and David Morris will be talking about the Connected Communities project led by the Royal Society for the Arts. The seminar, Community in Focus: Social Work Making Connections, will be held at King’s Manor in York from 9.30 am to 2.00 pm on Friday 8th February 2013. It is free to Making Research Count members, mental health social workers and Approved Mental Health Professionals in the Yorkshire and Humberside regions. Otherwise, places cost £75 each. Please click here to see the flyer for additional information and booking details.

A week later, the Connecting People Study team are hosting a workshop for practitioners and managers interested in implementing the Connecting People Intervention in their agencies on Friday 15th February from 10.00am to 1.00pm at The Strand campus of King’s College London. The Connecting People Intervention Study Fast Track Workshop will feature a presentation about the intervention model and some interactive training exercises we use in the intervention training. As we are inviting all the participating agencies to attend, there will be an opportunity to discuss the on-going piloting of the intervention with people who are using it in their practice. We are also providing a networking lunch to encourage participants to informally discuss their practice in the context of the intervention model. More information about how to book onto this free workshop is available on this website.

Later that day, I will be presenting a paper on the study in a Royal Holloway University of London Department of Social Work Research Seminar. This is likely to have a more academic focus than the other events as it will explore the more technical aspects of the study, including the construction of the intervention model and the methodology of the pilot study. However, limited free places are available for the seminar which will be held from 4.00pm to 6.00pm at Bedford Square in London on Friday 15th February. Please click here for more information.

I will also be giving presentations at conferences in Finland, Los Angeles and London on the Connecting People Study during 2013, in addition to many other local workshops and seminars. If you would like me or one of the study team to talk at your event about the intervention or the study (or both), please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

In the meantime, on behalf of the Connecting People Study team I would like to thank all those involved in the study and the piloting of the intervention for their hard work during 2012. We look forward to continuing our work with you in 2013.