Kevin Dicks, chief executive of Redditch Borough Council, on why the public sector must change the way people with mental health or wellbeing issues are supported…
OVER the last two years we have done lots of work in the council trying to redesign our services with people at the heart of our change programme.
We are trying to design services people and our communities want and need rather than impose our view on them or just continue to provide what we have always done in the past.
We spend lots of time listening to people and families to truly understand their issues and we then try to resolve the root cause of the problem rather than provide sticking plaster solutions.
One of the main issues we have found many people are struggling with is mental health – or to be more accurate mental wellbeing.
Health professionals tell us that mental health and mental wellbeing are entirely different.
All I know is people are struggling to cope with everyday existence and we need to help and support them to get the help they need to resolve these issues.
But the issue we have is a lot of the problems people face we can’t solve on our own and while we try to access help from other organisations, it can be a time consuming and frustrating process.
Appeals for help often get bogged down in red tape and process – we should know we were doing it ourselves for a long time.
We are doing our part by redefining the role of our housing officers into locality officers, whose primary role is to support people and work to the principles of understanding them and the problems they need help to solve, taking as long as necessary and doing whatever it takes to create the space for that person to solve their problems.
Our philosophy is that prevention is better than cure and we are doing our best to try to support our tenants and resolve issues.
When the cases we are dealing with are beyond the expertise of our locality officers, we do have support from mental health professionals.
However I feel we could do so much more if we were all to work together to completely redesign services, work across boundaries and be less precious as to who is responsible for what, and this includes ourselves.
I believe it is the responsibility of all of us to do everything within our power to improve the quality of people’s lives – even if it’s not our direct responsibility – after all we are supposed to be in a public service.
In an ideal world we would eradicate the stigma around mental health/wellbeing and the red tape around public sector services so we ensure people are getting the right help at the right time. The world’s not ideal, but I believe we can do so much more if we do it together.