Monday, 4 November 2013

Citizen Power, Active Participation

Blog by Freda Lacey, Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO)

The Person in the Arena – Theodore Roosevelt    

"It is not the critic who counts; not the person who points out how the strong …stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends themselves in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if they fail, at least fails while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

24th October 2014.  Left to right, back row;
Rhydian Parry, Neil Saunders, Kate Van Den Ende,
Steve Hails, Liz Hails, Phil Pashley, Meriel Richards,
Phil Moisson.  Front: Freda Lacey, Lotte McGregor,
Ali Lloyd-Jones, Michelle Willingham, Jill Dibling

On Thursday,  24th October, I gave the above quote, a personal favourite of mine (one which has boosted me many times during some of my darker days) to a group of twelve enthusiastic, devoted citizens of Powys, who came together for the day with me to discuss active participation on local and national Mental Health Partnership Boards. 





The Road Trip

This meeting was the culmination of a long road trip across Powys over the last few months, engaging with people in local groups, teams, towns and localities.  I gleefully sent out some photos to my family of my journey to work that first day of travel, captioned, “my road to work this morning”.  I feel incredibly lucky to live in a county and drive roads which take me to views like this in the work I do. 

My mission? 
To inform and encourage people to participate at our annual Stronger in Partnership conference, this year entitled, “Shaping Services Together”.  People would get to meet with Jacqui Dillon, a well known activist and public speaker on the de-medicalisation of mental health distress and chair of the “Hearing Voices Network”, actively participate in speaking up about the impact of the UK Welfare Reform (workshop video here) and meet with key decision makers locally and nationally to report on personal experiences (watch out for a subsequent Blog on this topic!). 

Welshpool Outreach - Ponthafren

They would also get to speak directly with members of the relatively new National Partnership Board driving the “Together for Mental Health” strategy and delivery plans across Wales.  People would also learn more about how to actively engage and participate in shaping mental health services (you can access their talk here), locally and through a newly forming National Forum for citizens in contact with mental health services across Wales.  

Llanidloes Outreach - Ponthafren
I combined visits to local mental health voluntary services/groups and statutory mental health staff/teams closely in contact with people who have been diagnosed with "mental illness". 

My journey took me to places such as Machynlleth and visits with Mind Aberystwyth’s “UsMach” and a local counseling services called “The Listening Point”.  To Llanidloes’ Mental Health Outreach Group, Welshpool Mental Health Resource Centre, both managed by Ponthafren Association.  

Older People's team, South Powys
Newtown’s Mental Health Resource Centre (managed by Ponthafren Association), Builth Wells Mental Health Outreach Group and Llandrindod Wells Resource Centre, through Mid Powys Mind, Brecon and District Mind’s (note new name), Mental Health Resource Centre.   Bryntirion’s multi-disciplinary team of social workers, community psychiatric nurses and team leaders in Welshpool, multi-disciplinary staff team at Ty Illtyd in Brecon, the older people’s multi-disciplinary staff team gathered at Bronllys Hospital and the multi-disciplinary staff team at The Larches in Ystradgynlais.

This event was also going to uniquely focus on “across all ages” and we actively worked with the Participation Team working with the Powys Youth Forum and Tros Gynnal, who provide Children’s Advocacy, to get their involvement.  Several young people came, with the support of these two local organisations and they worked with Theatr Clwyd on a workshop to put across their points/issues to the audience.  There was also quite a bit of audience participation as you can see in the picture here and below.

We had over 120 people registered for the event here in Powys which happened on September 19th and the momentum for people to get involved in shaping mental health services, both locally and nationally, has continued since then with great interest.  It feels as if a great shift is happening with people really wanting to become more actively involved, raising their voice, campaigning for the rights of individuals (and themselves) to be heard.  People are passionately wanting to help change the way services are delivered so that they have the services they need, when they need them.  It is interesting that this is strongly aligned with the Welsh Government’s drive to involve more citizens in public consultations, engagement and participation at all levels.  For a list of the most recent opportunities to get involved, please visit this page on our website.

This all brings us to last Thursday’s day at Gregynog Hall, where originally, fifteen people had put themselves forward as interested in coming together to discuss active participation and representation on the Powys local Mental Health Planning and Development Partnership and the National Forum. Unfortunately, three people were unable to attend on the day due to unforeseen reasons. 

The local partnership board is a requirement, as part of the strategy for Mental Health across Wales, and each of the seven health boards in Wales need to create such a partnership.  They are also required to have people in contact with services and those close to them as active members on these partnership boards.  There are no minimum or maximum numbers, but most Boards have over four people as active members.  In Powys, we have three people who can participate on the partnership at any one meeting.

There were six people who organically fell out of the day’s selection process, but three others who really wished to participate, but were unsure of their abilities and perhaps lacking in some confidence.  The group, as a whole, really wished to encourage and support these three people to be actively involved and so they wished me to see whether the three people participating on the local partnership could be pulled from a pool of nine people.  The remaining three people all wished to be very actively involved in supporting the local and national engagement process.  Nine people from Powys will actively be part of the National Forum that is forming and this will consist of over 50 people from across Wales.

Jo Mussen (right) Vice Chair Powys teaching Health Board & Jackie Newey, PAVO
The nine people are a good mixture of people who have varied and diverse experiences.

It will be one of the widest, most diverse groups of people to ever come together, with one common purpose.  This is to ensure that those in contact with or close to people who have experience of mental health services in Wales are valued as equals in shaping mental health services for the future, that they are consulted, valued, actively involved through meaningful dialogue, ensuring that this is not tokenistic.  This Forum will also choose the four people who will participate on the National Partnership Board.  Importantly, communication to and from the National Partnership Board on issues affecting people and progress on key areas of interest in terms of service development and action, needs to be whole-heartedly carried through this Forum, by this Forum to local networks, groups and citizens represented from communities across Wales.  In this way, a strong, inter-dependent link will exist between local citizenship and Welsh Government, in relation to mental health and well-being.

Community Mental Health Team, Brecon
The ongoing challenge remains how we actively engage, communicate and dialogue with the silent majority of people, whose voice may not yet have been heard and indeed, who do not wish to participate via membership of a forum or board, but who do want to actively contribute and be heard.  Further development of local groups, local mechanisms for ensuring active participation is facilitated and helping forge meaningful connections are next steps for the group who met at Gregynog, as is utilising the widest and most innovative means possible to engage with people. 

Along with supporting this group, my role requires me to be mindful of linking opportunities for involvement in services with people with particular interests or experiences.  Most recent examples of this include: linking an individual in Newtown with Department of Health, Expert Reference Group meetings in London, reviewing the Mental Health Code of Practice and we’ll ensure that we are involved when/if the Welsh Code of Practice is also reviewed, ensuring individuals who have experience of being detained by the police (in relation to mental health distress) are linked in with a two year research project headed by the University of Bangor into Police practice, linking people with the group overseeing the implementation of the Mental Health Measure (Act) across Wales and seeking to involve people in the formation of the Powys Psychological Therapies Management Committee.

Finally, I shared with the “Twelve” a poem which means a great deal to me.  It is called “To Risk” and you can view it here on our website.  It felt right to hand people this poem before they attend the first meeting of the Powys Mental Health Planning and Development Partnership in December and the National Forum in November.  It may help if you’ve never gotten involved in participating before. 

So, if you wish to join in, get actively involved and have particular interests or experience in different aspects of services that makes you think you can make a difference for others and/or for yourself, please email me at or ring me on 01597 822191 for further information.

By Freda Lacey


  1. Inspiring stuff! Good luck, and I look forward to seeing more of you and your work

    1. Freda says: Kevin, thank you for your comment. Over the last year or so, the people who have volunteered their time, energy and passion in making a difference for others and to the services we receive have made incredible contributions to the development of local services. They are helping influence change at local, regional and national levels and we've recently compiled a CD of "Different Voices" all speaking of their experiences that will be on our website/Youtube channel soon. If you'd like to receive our monthly eBulletin, please let us know and we can send this to you. Thanks again for taking time to comment.