Plan to Change – helping people help themselves – experts by experience

How do you design and test a system that can empower people with multiple and complex needs to help themselves and find the services to help with their recovery?  By using an Asset Based Community Development approach to engage and mobilise a group of local residents and improve their own and others’ health and wellbeing.

Liz Bailey, Leeds City Council, Health and Wellbeing Improvement Manager and Kimberley Saggu, Touchstone Community Development Worker talk about the Make a Change day which led to the amazing work being done to close the health inequality gap in Burmantofts/Richmond Hill/ Lincoln Green areas.


Liz formed her vision, after  contributing to  a citywide project  called  the Leeds Co-producing health project . This project   brought together citizens and people who fund services so they could work together to develop services that really worked for those who needed them. Many of the services requested were those that helped people to socialise, be creative and join with others to make things happen.

She also knew that high alcohol related hospital admissions worried her  as well as the local residents who were also concerned about retail outlets selling cheap alcohol to already intoxicated customers.  The Police were reporting high numbers of alcohol related and anti-social behaviour calls and people with dependency wanted to give something back to their community and to join in everyday activities along with other community members.

Local people brought not only their concerns, but also their skills, knowledge and time. They are now taking an active role in shaping their lives and their local environment, forging new relationships and working on solutions together: in partnership with local businesses, statutory services and local organisations.

We are beginning to harness the many talents of these individuals, who are experts by experience, in a way that helps them in their own recovery as well as more able to pass on some of those benefits to the wider community.”

What has happened along this journey?

 A ‘safe space’ was created where people can talk about their ideas with peer support volunteers who ‘can walk in their shoes’.  Initial peer mentor training took place over 6 weeks then peers and service users attended the initial ten week rolling programme together.

It was important that ‘the space’ has non-judgmental staff, a non-pressurised environment e.g. to detox-We don’t  exclude anyone for being intoxicated as people recognise that they need to work through their own issues, but also need some support to help them do that.

Both peer supporters and group members were offered follow-on opportunities e.g. Service user involvement and volunteering opportunities with Touchstone, service user progression groups, peer support training and workplace placements with Change, Grow, Live (Formerly known as the Crime Reduction Initiative),  which recognised and enhanced the skills and assets  people already had.


What did this lead to?

 All members had previously had poor experiences with medical, emergency and security staff, because of their alcohol use, often receiving second rate care  or being excluded from Urgent/Primary care treatment.

Collectively, members felt they had sufficient strengths to start to address this situation. So they:

  • Participated in the action focused ‘Zip’ group meeting ( formerly known as the Dual Diagnosis Reference Group). The Touchstone Community Development Service continue to work with and  help to represent service users by sharing experiences and ideas at the Crisis and Urgent Care Steering Group to change/influence emergency care services ensuring better experiences and outcomes for everyone.
  • Helped secure funding, develop and volunteered in a Winter Wellbeing Café, an out of hours ‘drop in’ for anyone  experiencing difficulties, such as homelessness, social isolation, poor mental health, learning disabilities or alcohol and substance dependencies.

Started to create positive change using art and music therapy to help them think about early warnings and interventions around the effects of alcohol use both to themselves,  and to influence the wider community.

The group began  working with East Street Arts Community Learning , to explore alcohol  issues, create  labels on bottles and design community appropriate  warning  messages , where the drinkers will see them  These messages make people very aware of the impacts of alcohol on their body, mind and general health and  will be shared through Alcohol Awareness week, and with local retailers and agencies, in an effort to deter heavy drinking and highlight the local support available.


What other impacts have there been?

 The project has built on the skills of local residents, harnessed the power of local associations, and engaged the supportive functions of local institutions to start building a stronger, more sustainable community for the future.

  • There is ownership and respect from the people attending the group, irrespective of what is going on in people’s lives. The group focuses on broader prevention, as well as mental health and wellbeing. It’s not just about alcohol!
  • The group has developed very strong partnerships with a number of service providers e.g. the, Positive Pathways Programme run by Touchstone Supporta 12-week course designed to empower participants to live more positively , and the Green Doctor, which helped them to take control of their energy bills and to reduce their environmental impact at the same time
  • Feedback from the group to Forward Leeds has led to the introduction of local initial assessments. This saves unnecessary travelling for group members and for the service and so reduces the number of people who ‘Do not attend’ their appointments.
  • The group now uses West Yorkshire Police and emergency services appropriately- with a subsequent reduction in unnecessary calls.
  • Change Grow Live are providing a referral route  into service user progression groups, and their Peer mentoring
  • West Yorkshire-Finding Independence Project Navigators  support the group by referring their beneficiaries and referrals are made to the WY-FI Project for people with multiple and complex needs who have disengaged from services. Volunteering and employment opportunities are developed through this project.
  • Being involved in Plan to Change has meant participants have made positive changes to their lives. From April 2013 to August 2016, 196 participants have progressed to 53 different services/projects.

  If you would like to find out more about the programme contact Kimberley Saggu – Community Development Worker (BME communities)


Or  Liz Bailey – Health and Wellbeing Improvement Manager


Thanks Liz and Kimberley

About betterlivesleeds

Health, social and age-related care services working together to make Leeds the best city for health and wellbeing
This entry was posted in Achievement, healthy lifestyle, Independence, Information, Integration, Social Isolation, strengths based, Transforming care services and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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