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.


Taking Learning Forward – Engagement Events September 2013

The Connecting People Study team are pleased to announce three engagement events being held this September across the country.

Taking Learning Forward

These events will give people the chance to;
• Find out more about the Connecting People Intervention
• Receive feedback on baseline findings from the study
• Have opportunities to network with other
agencies participating in the study
• Find out about what is happening next in the study

The event details are as follows.
• Tuesday 10th September held at Grapevine , Coventry

• Monday 23rd September held at UCLan, Preston

• Tuesday 24th September held at Kings College London

The events all commence at 10:30am and will finish at 2:00pm. Lunch will be provided.
These events are all free of charge but places are limited. For more details or to book a place please contact Tracey Hawkes.

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!


Pilot study progress and recruitment updates

Throughout the recruitment phases of the study we’ve had a great deal of interest amongst the participating agencies of how recruitment is going across the diverse agencies and target populations. We have heard from practitioners how recent changes in policy are reflected by additional pressures in their work and we acknowledge that such pressures impact the recruitment and implementation of the CPI model.  In spite of these pressures, 16 agencies across the study are doing fantastically well to recruit participants!

Data on the first 84 baseline interviews indicates we have recruited 60 adults with mental health problems, five older adults (over 65yrs) with functional mental health problems, and 19 adults with a learning disability.

We thought it would be interesting (and fun!) to break these figures down and look at how recruitment is coming along based on the goals we set with each agency at the start of the study.  Recruitment aims were based on the number of new referrals and capacity of staff when the agencies agreed to take part in the study. These aims are crucial to the success of the study, in order to find meaningful results in our diverse sample.

To date, one agency has exceeded their recruitment aim by 40%.  Six agencies are at least halfway toward meeting recruitment goals, four agencies have recruited 20-40%, and three agencies are at 10-15% of intended recruitment.  We have just over one month to continue baseline interviews with participants who are interested in the Connecting People Intervention Study.

Recognising the immense pressure that staff members are under, we are working with agencies individually to find strategies that support recruitment despite these limitations.  We are curious to hear from you, how do you think practitioners might be supported to recruit participants to the CPI study in next month?

Connecting People Workshop

On Friday 15th February the team hosted the first Connecting People Workshop, an interactive event at King’s College London to raise awareness and share experiences of the CP intervention.

Around 50 people attended the event from a range of backgrounds and services interested in this model of practice.  Many of the attendees were new to the CPI model and agency representatives from the pilot study also shared their experience, culminating in the room being filled with a breadth of perspectives and opinions, which lead to engaging discussions throughout the day.

Attendees at the CP Workshop

Attendees at the CP Workshop

After an introduction to the policy and research that fuelled the development of the intervention model, attendees were split into groups of workers who had experience of the intervention and those new to the study.

Professor David Morris discussing the policy and research background

Professor David Morris discussing the policy and research background

This was the first time we’ve brought workers from the different intervention pilot sites together, and so this event served as a valuable opportunity to learn how other agencies are working with the intervention.  We held a group discussion from which the consensus was that the event had been useful and more networking opportunities should be organised, which we will endeavour to do.


Quote from a participating agency: ‘I feel that I am in a privileged situation that the use of the model in practice is nearly honed through our own good practice, however I have learnt a lot on how we can improve these practices even further and fully intend to cascade to my colleagues’

Workers new to the CP model

Training sessions with workers new to the CP model

The attendees who were new to the model were given a ‘potted training on the intervention’ – short bite-size bits of training extracted from training sessions that we had run for the pilot agencies.  This was no mean feat – we covered two training exercises that would normally take up to half a day in only 40 minutes – however we feel that we gave a good taster of the training days, and certainly helped to bring the intervention alive and place it in the context of their practice.

Training Activities session

Workers new to the CP model

Quote from a worker new to the model: ‘Will use this model when commissioning for new services’

The final activity of the morning was a panel discussion. Panel members had first-hand experience of the intervention and came from diverse backgrounds, allowing them to adeptly answer all of the questions asked of them by the room. The panel were: Prof David Morris (P.I. on the Connecting People Study and chair, UCLan); Andrew Hodson (Arts and Media manager, BlueSCI); Audrey Gallier (Social worker: Derby City CMHS Early Intervention Service); and Dr Darren Craddock (Consultant Psychiatrist: Coventry & Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust).

Panel discussion

Panel discussion

One of the questions raised: How do you incorporate changes in practice from the CPI model into agency culture such that its principles are sustained beyond the period of the research itself?

Attendees certainly made use of the networking lunch at the end of the day and many contacts were made for future correspondence.  The agencies working within the pilot study had created posters for the event which were displayed during the lunch and allowed an insight into exactly how they had fitted their practice to the intervention.

Poster displays during the networking lunch

Poster displays during the networking lunch

We were busy taking photos, but that was not the only media coverage of the event.  Old Trafford Community Television filmed the morning to form the basis of some of the training materials that we will be producing to allow new agencies to start to use the intervention.  In addition, Andy McNicoll from Community Care attended the event and wrote a piece for the magazine, which you can read here.  Sadly one of the Principal Investigators of the study – Dr Martin Webber – was unable to attend the event due to illness but he keeps a very active blog of his own, which you can access here and will give you more insight into his thoughts about the Connecting People Intervention.

Our team thoroughly enjoyed the morning and from the feedback, it seems that the attendees felt the same!  We will be evaluating the event and aim to hold something similar in the North of England later in the year.