Our guest blogger, John Walsh, Mental Health Support Worker for our York Street Health Practice, has been jetting around Europe to spread the work about the success of our integrated Adult Health and Social Care approach to helping the most vulnerable people in Leeds. Here he gives us a two part insight in to what he learned at a recent conference in Oslo:
I had the privilege of attending the European Conference on Outreach Work in Oslo. This conference was attended by over 300 delegates from 20 countries. It drew together practitioners, academics and service users to discuss how we can work together to reach and empower marginalized youth and adults. The conference was formally opened by the Crown Prince of Norway, the Minister of Health and Social Care, the Mayor of Oslo and Thomas Kattau from the Council of Europe. I attended from York Street Health Practice along with my colleague Jo Smith, the mental health social worker for the homeless from Adult Social Care. Jo works at the Mental Health Homeless Team which is part of the local authority. Jo also works at the Street Outreach Team in Leeds run by CRI.
During our time in Oslo, Jo and I were involved in two workshops. The first was a joint session on 'Child Poverty' with two colleagues from Europe. Dr Francine Mestrum, a member of the International Council of the World Social Forum, spoke about how we cannot separate child poverty from family poverty and societal issues. She made the point that only in research are these things separate. In real life these things coalesce and feed into each other. Hence the need for a holistic approach. Stefan Weber a social worker from Berlin spoke about his work with marginalized people and poverty.
In our contribution we presented three things; a picture of Leeds and all its key features, some national and local data on poverty and a summary of the need for a vision and strategic approach. We spoke of the Health and Wellbeing Strategy for the city as a dynamic vision for the people and children of Leeds. The vision is that Leeds becomes a healthy and caring city for all ages; it seeks to create healthy communities, give people a say in decisions affecting them, address mortality rates in poor areas and improve the quality of life for all people in Leeds. We spoke of how we enthusiastically embrace this vision and seek to both imbed this in our service and spread it across the city.
We also discussed that the right process and right ideas are not enough without the right people - people of vision and care. We presented Cllr Lisa Mulherin, the chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board, as an example for her influence in the development of this inclusive and positive vision for the city. She has been a tremendous support to health and wellbeing initiatives and has acted to support the most vulnerable people in our city by creating new ways of working in a collaborative and learning manner across a city. Three examples of this include the implementation of 12 integrated care teams in the city, the Homeless Accommodation Leeds Pathways (HALP) and work around making sure that people had food by setting up a food network for homeless people and a wider food action plan and network across the city for all people lacking food. We also mentioned the role and work of Cllr John Hardy. John has been instrumental in the creation of these vital food plans and links and caring work on the streets to support homeless people.
We ended by discussing the great services working on the streets and in communities in Leeds. We broke the workshops into small groups and asked them to feed back good news and practice from their cities. Perhaps the most poignant moment for me was when a delegate said to the workshop that what he had seen and heard had convinced him to start to work with others involved in different areas of inclusion and seek alliances for the poor and vulnerable across his city. At the conference meal that night some delegates said to us that it was helpful to hear the good things happening in Leeds.