Winners of last year's Employability Self Management Award share their story of facing closure after 30 years and bouncing back stronger.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2019, Pillar Kincardine is local community based mental health organisation working to support individuals who are experiencing serious emotional, social and mental health challenges in the Kincardine and Mearns area of Aberdeenshire.
Pillar’s small team of trained staff work in partnership with individuals, their support networks, professionals and local volunteers to build motivation & capacity to change. A weekly co-produced programme of groups and activities bring people together in the community to share learning and empower participants to self manage their own recovery whilst building a network of friends and peer supporters.
Early in 2017 Pillar faced threat of closure. Our Service Level Agreement with Aberdeenshire Council ended as they announced their intention to redesign and commission a new community mental health service across Aberdeenshire. During the brief service redesign consultation period, Pillar support service users and their families to have their views and opinions about what they needed from services heard. Despite some extremely challenging times, Pillar recognised the need to re-evaluate our own service delivery and to make the necessary changes to ensure we could continue to provide a strong, effective, truly service user led, recovery focused service.
In 2018 Pillar was awarded funding from the ALLIANCE Self Management Fund to develop the Minds at Work Project so that we could further develop the quality and range of service provision that would fulfill an identified need within Kincardine & Mearns. The ALLIANCE encouraged us to be imaginative and not to be afraid to experiment and try new ideas, to have the courage to fail and to recognise that the majority of funders are more interested in the learning that brought rather than the urgency to achieve outcomes. We were invited to attend learning days that gave us the opportunity to meet and share in the learning of other organisations and to pool ideas. We also benefitted greatly from the guidance of Evaluation Support Scotland who have shown us how to be more effective and imaginative in the way we evaluate our work. Further funding was secured in 2019 which enabled us to take build on it this learning as we continued to develop a programme approach with our Mind and Body Project.
We have learned a great deal through our development of the Mind and Body programme. Our initial women’s group was very successful with some participants engaging in further training and going back into part time employment and others developing the confidence to participate as peer mentors in our Moving Forward group, planning and leading their own activities with minimal staff support. This group bonded well and friendships developed which saw the growth of a strong peer support network with members regularly supporting each other to be active in the wider community. In 2019 we were delighted to receive the Employability Award at the ALLIANCE Self Management awards ceremony in Edinburgh.
Perhaps the most significant learning from this group development process is need to recognise the impact that one person’s recovery can have on their peers. Whilst we as an organisation recognise that each individual’s recovery journey takes its own path and at its own pace our ongoing challenge is to support members of the groups, who feel unable to move at the same pace, to work through the emotional difficulty of adapting to the changing needs of their peers and to help them sustain their progress as others feel able to move out of the service.
We are currently working with a group of men to develop a Mind and Body programme for men and will use this learning to inform future discussions about what it means to be recovery focussed in a wider context.