The first paper reporting findings from research which led to the creation of the Connecting People Intervention was published on 1st December 2014 online by the journal Health and Social Care in the Community.
‘Enhancing social networks: a qualitative study of health and social care practice in UK mental health services‘ explores how workers connect people with mental health problems to others in their various communities. It focuses on good practice which enables us to recommend to other agencies how best to train their workers to undertake this vital work.
Supporting people’s connectivity is important as it helps them to get on and get ahead with their lives. People who are better connected in society can find better jobs and more resources, which lead to wealth, power and status. Supporting people to enhance their networks helps them to stand a better chance when looking for work or other life opportunities which can enhance their well-being and recovery.
We worked with six agencies and teams who were a mixture of third sector and statutory agencies:
- blueSCI in Trafford, Manchester
- Somerset Team for Early Psychosis in Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Somerset
- Early Intervention for Psychosis Team in Kent & Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, West Kent
- Social Inclusion Hope and Recovery Project in South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Lambeth, south London
- Hestia Housing and Support in Hounslow, west London, who introduced us to Kingston Recovery Initiative Social Enterprise
- Start Again Project in Birmingham
We spent a lot of time with workers in these teams, talking to them and the service users they were working with, shadowing them on visits and community activities, and sitting in on team meetings. We observed how they supported people to connect with others and how the agencies which employed them supported them with this task. In total we collected data from 73 workers and 51 people who used their services in this study.
We conducted our data analysis with some of the participants of the study to ensure our assumptions were correct. Focus groups helped us to refine our themes and develop the intervention model, which will be reported in a separate paper.
The prominent themes to emerge were the importance of worker skills; attitudes and roles; connecting people processes; the role of the agency; and barriers to network development. The sub-themes which were identified included worker attitudes; person-centred approach; equality of worker–individual relationship; goal setting; creating new networks and relationships; engagement through activities; practical support; existing relationships; the individual taking responsibility; identifying and overcoming barriers; and moving on.
These themes are consistent with recovery models used within mental health services and were subsequently modelled into the Connecting People Intervention.
This study was important as it helped us to define the components of the Connecting People Intervention which has subsequently been shown to be effective in enhancing individuals’ access to social capital.
We would like to thank all the participants of the study, the participating agencies and the NIHR School for Social Care Research for funding the research.
Webber, M., Reidy, H., Ansari, D., Stevens, M. & Morris, D. (2014) Enhancing social networks: a qualitative study of health and social care practice in UK mental health services, Health and Social Care in the Community DOI: 10.1111/hsc.12135
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like a PDF copy of the paper and do not have access to this via the publisher’s website.