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Anglia Ruskin was one of the first universities to support service user-led research (Ramon, 2003) and the first UK university to involve mental health service users in the development and implementation of postgraduate mental health education (Khoo, McVicar and Brandon. 2004). It has a national and international reputation for its innovation in research methodologies which value and support service users' experiential knowledge in the development of statutory and alternative voluntary sector service provision (Munn-Giddings and Borkman, 2005).
In 2004, a joint initiative between the Department of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities and Essex Social Services Department led to the formation of a mental health service user research group, SE-SURG (the South Essex Service User Research Group). More recently, an Essex County Council training course led by Professor Carol Munn-Giddings has led to the formation of the WhyNot Older People's Research Group. As part of the MIME project we are also in the early stages of supporting the development of a carers' research group in South Essex and will be extending service user and carer research services to North Essex.
SE-SURG is a group of current or former mental health service users who initially came together in 2004 to work on a survey of mental health service users' employment goals. The group carries out research, consultations and evaluations for mental health service providers and commissioners. Two members are employed at the university as Researcher/Administrators on permanent half-time contracts. Other members are paid on a piece rate basis commensurate with their individual financial situation. To date the group has completed 13 studies.
MIME is a three year project set up in 2009 by all the local authority and primary care trust commissioners in Essex to engage directly with service users and carers specifically around establishing priorities for commissioning services. The project is jointly led by Anglia Ruskin University and ARW Mental Health Training & Consultancy - a service user organisation.
Following training there will be opportunities for service users and carers to participate in a range of activities such as consultations, focus groups, service reviews and evaluations. For those who feel ready to gain valuable paid or voluntary work experience there will be further opportunities for training around evaluation and monitoring, facilitating groups etc. [Other members on the team: Project Co-ordinator: Pamela Hutton, Dr. Tim Schaefer, Maxine Nightingale & Lyn Kent (SE-SURG) + partners User-Led organisation, ARW].
The study examined the innovative organisational features and funding arrangements of mental health user-led organisations. It assessed, from service users' perspectives, the role user-led organisations play in promoting social inclusion and recovery and how national and local policies and funding mechanisms enabled or constrained the development of user-led organisations.
The study was guided by a participatory approach and applied a case study design. Four user-led organisations made up the case studies and semi-structured interviews were undertaken with a range of individuals involved in the organisations. Where appropriate telephone consultations with funders, observation of board meetings and focus groups with staff and volunteers were also undertaken. The study builds on a previous cross-national study comparing the origins, development and welfare contexts of User Led organisations in UK, USA and Sweden. [other members of the research team: Lesley Smith and Sarah Campbell]
Self help / mutual aid groups are run for and by peers who are facing a similar social or health related condition. There is considerable evidence that peer-led self help groups offer an effective means for improving health and social care outcomes for people. This is a three year project entitled 'Effective Support for Self Help / Mutual aid groups - ESTEEM', which starts in April 2010 and is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. It is designed to produce evidence based guidelines that would be widely available to health and social care practitioners so that they can provide the best support for local self help groups.
The study will be based in two locations: Nottingham and Essex. The project will use a qualitative case study design to be carried out in four stages over 36 months. The case studies will be based on in-depth qualitative investigation with a selected range of self help groups and community practitioners. [Other members on the team: Collaboration with Self Help Nottingham and Nottingham University; Sarah Collis, Self Help Nottingham, Prof. Mark Avis, Nottingham University].
People who use services, and carers, are becoming more active participants in social care provision, training and employment, and no longer are the passive recipients of services. One way of achieving greater participation is to equip service users with the skills and knowledge to carry out research in their own right, using and building on their own life experience. Since 2007 the research team has been in a partnership with the leads for Later Life and Community Wellbeing in Essex County Council (ECC). The project has been to train a group of older people (60-80years of age) with the aim of enabling them to become research aware, be able to critically engage with and interpret published research, and to equip them with the basic skills to carry out individual or group projects.
A major outcome of the initiative has been the formation of an Older People's Research Group 'WhyNot!' which has a membership of 18 (of the 28) participants who completed the programme who work with ECC and others on projects of direct relevance to older people. [South Essex Service User Research Group). [Other members on the team: Dr. Andy MVicar and Niamh O'Brien].
This project is a collaboration between Anglia Ruskin and Canterbury Christ Church University comprising a comprehensive literature review on citizen involvement in social work education and aiming to produce recommendations for increasing citizen involvement at PQ level. [Other members on the team: Joanna Fox and Deborah Amas, Anglia Ruskin University].
The study focused on participatory arts projects in England for people aged 16 to 65 with mental health needs. It had five main strands:
This doctoral research adopts a qualitative case study approach and is using mixed methods in order to gain multiple perspectives on the system of statutory reviews for older people resident in care homes. A key research question is the extent to which the older person can be meaningfully involved in such reviews, particularly when cognitive and communicative impairment is present.