Midlands Psychology

Posted by editor 26/11/2013 0 Comment 3371 views
Midlands Psychology

Midlands Psychology HQ

Charles Howgego hears about a group of clinicians improving the mental health of whole communities. //

“It was an amazing, probably brave and stupid thing to do,” is the honest summing up of Angela Southall looking back on her decision to leave the NHS in 2008 and set up social enterprise Midlands Psychology (MP). The psychological support services organisation, working with children and young people, was born out of Southall’s network of colleagues and friends at the time, reflecting the fact there was more than a hint of disquiet about the way they were able to treat patients.

“We thought healthcare had really lost it,” she says. “There were these big Foundation Trusts coming together like massive corporations, they had really lost their focus on ‘local’ .”

And it is local, local, local that floats Southall’s boat. “You involve the local community, that’s how you improve the health of the whole community,” is how she puts it, as she sums up MP’s approach to their work, which is carried out throughout Staffordshire.

Their goal is to help children and young people with a range of different needs, from autism and learning difficulties to kids from care and even ex-offenders, live more independently and in their local community. “I worked for 20 years managing psychotherapy services across boundaries with social services, education and other community groups. It’s always been local work,” says Southall of her passion, “to have a ‘real lives’ focus rather than a medical one”.

And it is the real lives of the young people that the team at MP are trying to change for the better. “It’s the everyday things that really matter to people,” Southall explains, “like having a place to live, having positive relationships, friendships and being able to achieve and earn a bit of money.” MP is full of positive stories of people making progress, moving forward, getting their first jobs,  through the help MP calls the Supported Living Programme.

With this programme in mind, they have taken a loan from Big Issue Invest to create a residential dynamic, buying five flats for young people to use as a base to move towards living independently. “We will be working with people with much more complex needs. It might be someone who has a history of self-harm who really needs someone present,” Southall says. “So there will be 24/7 support and a programme to improve their life skills and to cope with their difficulties… It means we can bring people back into their local communities when currently they have to live a long way away.”

This attitude of encouraging individuals to move their own lives forward is shared by Nigel Kershaw, CEO of Big Issue Invest and chairman of The Big Issue Group. “I was so impressed when I first met Midlands Psychology,” he says. “They are great social entrepreneurs with a mission that resonates with that of The Big Issue, to help people help themselves through work and independence.”

A number of social enterprises have grown in the NHS and been ‘spun out’ to exist on their own but the giant leap that Southall and her team took was growing theirs outside of the health service. Thus her suggestion that there was an element of foolhardiness in her decision and her belief that MP is unique in that way.

With 30 passionate staff and a growing network of volunteers, MP is moving Staffordshire’s more challenged young people to a place where they are able to take more control and responsibility for their own lives. Amazing and brave, definitely; stupid, definitely not.


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