Monday, 27 July 2015

Communilab - an idea whose time has come

I went to a meeting with David Hodge, the leader of Surrey CC, and a number of charity CEOs last week. These are regular meetings - about three times a year - to inform us about short and long-term financial planning and how it might affect the charity sector. The good news is that there have not so far been in the in year cuts from central government for 2015-6 that were once feared. The council will know more about the 2016 funding after 25th November. It is baffling to me how national finances are run. Councils, who need for efficiency reasons to give out contracts lasting, say, 5 years, do not know their next year's finances until a few months beforehand.  

Surrey CCs overall income is remaining roughly flat over a number of years (increasing council tax receipts but decreasing monies from central government). However, the outgoings are increasing massively for reasons out of Surrey's control. Surrey has the largest population of 100 year olds in the country! Of course, with a particularly large elderly population comes the associated costs of care for conditions such as dementia. Furthermore, more babies with serious health conditions are surviving through to adulthood, also with associated care costs.  Finally, lots of families with young children move into the county from London.

So, the council's finances are going to continue to be squeezed. This backs up a quote from NESTA:

       “We face seemingly intractable long-term economic and social challenges … radical innovation is needed in public services to respond effectively to these challenges.
       Radical new approaches require radical new actors. We need to combine the ingenuity and initiative of a diverse group of innovators – from the public sector, private companies and third sector, alongside users and communities – to find new solutions to pressing economic and social problems.”

                                                      Michael Harris and David Albury.
                                                      The innovation imperative." NESTA, London (2009)

As many of you know, our Communilab community is bringing together just such a diverse group of innovators - public sector, private companies, third sector, users and communities AND also we plan to involve schools/universities.  Communilab aims to create opportunities and solve problems for young people in Surrey. As budgets get squeezed further, we believe the potential benefits from Communilab will be huge. Already we are getting some great examples of collaboration - click here for more information on Youth Work on the Pitch, our football collaboration between Leatherhead Youth Project, Lifetrain, Surrey FA, Active Surrey, Kings College and others. Click here to see the original collaboration conversation that led to this work.

Monday, 20 July 2015

What is good mental health?

Apologies for the lack of blog for a few weeks. A family bereavement followed by a couple of weeks with a full diary playing catch up and my blog got neglected.

A theme that comes up time and again in my work is young people’s mental health in Surrey and it seems particularly appropriate to think about this now. I have had discussions with various people and no one has come up with a definition of what good mental health looks like. We have an idea of measures about good physical health – body mass index, heart rates, cholesterol – and what we need to do to achieve this – exercise, 5 a day, etc.

In other areas of public activities there is a clear focus on the positive – a sense of safety rather than a fear of crime. We have the much more proactively named “Supporting Families” work rather than the “Troubled Families” programme.

So, with respect to mental health, I believe it is important to know what we are aiming for. What does good mental health look like? And what can we do to get there?

So far, I have not managed to find an official definition of what good mental health is. Can anyone provide me with one?

In the meantime, we do have some excellent feedback from the CAMHS Rights and Participation team who asked young people what they thought it meant to be emotionally healthy.

After a discussion here is a list of what they believed could define good emotional health:
- Good independent coping mechanisms
- Balanced range of emotions
- Being able to stay positive even when times are tough.
- Having the ability to learn from experiences and move forward positively.
- Having a “Thirst for life”  (Looking forward to the future positively).
- Accepting there are bad days as well as good days.
- Healthy understanding of your own thoughts, feelings and emotions.
- Knowing your possibilities and being realistic.
- Being able to make goals, and having hopes and dreams.
- Feeling motivated.
- Not being hard on yourself.
- Being able to feel comfortable in "your own shell"

A young person also wrote a piece of text to describe what good emotional well being looks like:

Good emotional health is having good independent coping mechanisms to be able to successfully deal with any situation that might arise in daily life. Good emotional health is to have a balanced range of emotions, and to be able to express them all healthily, whilst also learning from all experiences and move forward from them positively. Good emotional health is staying positive even when times are tough, and being aware that everyone has bad days from time to time.

Please do let me know if you have seen an official definition of what good mental health looks like.