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Acknowledging the value of service users

11 October 2012

Today the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) announces news that 15 voluntary and community sector organisations in England have backing to lead partnership applications for a share of £100 million targeted at those with multiple and complex needs. Read more about the announcement in our newsroom

In the following guest blog, Dominic Ruffy, National Chair of RehabGrads, comments on the potential impact of BIG’s ‘Fulfilling Lives – supporting people with multiple and complex needs’ investment and highlights the importance of involving customers in the shaping of future complex needs services. 

At last somebody recognises the real value of service user experience in creating a better designed system.

RehabGrads National Chair, Dominic Ruffy

RehabGrads National Chair, Dominic Ruffy

As an ex service user now working with organisations and people with complex needs all over the country, the problems within the current systems are all too evident, and they are not surprising given that providers are having to fight pitch battles every three years to win contracts. Alas the losers were and are the people with multiple needs.

BIG’s Multiple and Complex Needs programme can put an end to all that. BIG has opened the door to true engagement between providers and by placing a heavy emphasis on service user involvement has acknowledged that we, the customers, are likely to know better than most what we need, when we need it and where the problems lie in getting it.

The power of example can never be underestimated when it comes to treating individuals with complex needs, and the power of involving those individuals in their own treatment, in acknowledging their value to the process and in listening to those individuals to learn where things can be improved, is enormous.

As the programme title suggests we can be very complex people to work with and no-one understands us quite like we learn to understand ourselves. There are already some amazing examples of service user led systems up and down the country that work exceptionally well, but those examples buck the trend because they represent a change in thinking, a risk to the established working practices and the ‘them and us’ mentality that still exists within many treatment systems.

The reality is we, the service users, can bridge the gaps that need to be bridged and can reach those people with the most entrenched problems that BIG has its heart set on reaching. An engaged service user is a happy service user and a valued service user is a recovering service user.

In the midst of austerity and the darkness that blights the current treatment landscape, we can light the path to better complex needs treatment systems and ultimately help create co-operative multiple service provider programmes that deliver quality outcomes to the very people these treatment systems are here to support.

For BIG’s Multiple and Complex Needs programme to work it is essential that service users are, as suggested by BIG themselves, fully engaged in whole project lifecycle, from inception to implantation and year on year evolution.

I for one am thrilled at the opportunities this programme represents to providers and people with multiple and complex needs throughout England. Working together we can bring about real change for those who need it most.

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