Looking to the STARS…

Stuart is chair of the new involvement group at Second Step which works with staff to improve the organisation’s services, STAR Improvement.  STAR stands for shaping, teaching and responding and Stuart was instrumental in developing this new approach to involvement and coproduction at Second Step. Here Stuart explains why it means so much to him.

It shouldn’t be a matter of where you’ve come from or what you do or what you used to do. It shouldn’t matter who you are. Everyone’s voice should be the same. This is how it should be with coproduction. Whether you are a member of staff, a carer a volunteer or someone who uses a Second Step service – your voice should be heard equally. It’s not about being good for staff or good for clients, it should be good for everyone.

I worked for the mobile telephone provider, The Link, and was there when it became Orange. I realised during that time what small cogs we are and that by working together we can have a louder and more influential voice. I was involved in the staff negotiations to transfer over to the new organisation and the process was tiring, it didn’t stop for months. It taught me humility, patience and the art of listening. It taught me ways of bringing different things together. All the things that are so important for coproduction to work well.

Linda from Second Step

I’ve been with Second Step for four years in an involvement role, before that I used Second Step’s floating support service for two years. Second Step was the only organisation I would engage with. My support worker, Linda, was the only person I would engage with at that time. I had been living in my car, homeless, for six months after a marriage breakup and I refused to speak to anyone. Linda was my lifeline. She helped me get my life back together during a time when I was angry, isolated and twice tried to end my life.

I live with constant and sometimes unbearable pain. I take painkillers which are 100 times stronger than morphine, a very high dosage. I have to take them because of the excruciating pain in my lower back and upper neck. I have hereditary back problems exacerbated by a massive seizure I had 12 years ago – which left me unable to walk, talk and without my sense of smell or touch. It took months for me to come back from that and even today I have to walk with crutches and I am in a lot of pain.

Extreme sports

When I was young I was into extreme sports: skateboarding, BMXing, mountain biking, snowboarding, rollerblading. And I used to run. I ran as a kind of therapy for 10 k at a time. I had no memory of my run, it was the way I coped, erasing the bad parts of my life. My disability meant I couldn’t run any more. I was used to running away when things got tough. Now I had no choice. I had to face it.  

I had to face my depression. The fact I was no longer living with my children. The fact I was no longer able to work in the way I had worked.

I became involved in the service user groups at Second Step and became the chair of the Service Improvement Group, SIG. But back then, while we did good work auditing the way services were run, particularly with the housing and support services in Bristol, we felt as a group that we were wheeled into meetings and events and then wheeled out again. Involvement was often tokenistic. I felt I was a tick in the tick box exercise of involving clients in the way things were done.

Uplifting blue

So this recent reorganisation of what involvement is, is so important to me. It’s a great opportunity to get involvement and coproduction right. We’ve set up six small involvement groups to work with communications, new business, recruitment, training, policy-making and quality assurance in a way which really values the person with lived experience and direct experience of Second Step services. Collectively our approach is to be called STAR which stands for shaping, teaching and responding and neatly captures the way we want to work across all of Second Step’s services. You can find out more about the groups here.

I have high hopes of STAR. It’s been branded in a bold, uplifting blue and I really do think it will elevate the client voice and make coproduction a truly important part of every service. I hope our new approach will be taken up by others such as the Clinical Commissioning Groups and the NHS. For me it’s the way forward and I’m really proud to be the first chair of STAR Improvement!

Stuart
Chair of STAR Improvement

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