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RECOVERY COLLEGE: A new programme of courses aims to help people improve their mental health & wellbeing

RECOVERY COLLEGE: A new programme of courses aims to help people improve their mental health & wellbeing

Image from Together We CIC

Together We Community Interest Company  has been awarded a £49,000 grant by The SHINE Fund, the official charity of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), to set up a new ‘Recovery College’ to support people’s mental health and wellbeing in North Cumbria.

The Recovery College will provide a programme of free courses and workshops aimed at helping people to improve their wellbeing and recover from mental health issues. These will be developed and delivered by peers who have lived experience of mental illness themselves.

Together We CIC aims to begin delivering courses online by May this year, with in-person courses starting across the north of the county from July as COVID-19 restrictions lift.

Ken Jarrold CBE, Chair of the Council of Governors and Board of Directors at CNTW, said: “We are very pleased to be helping Together We CIC to set up a Recovery College for North Cumbria. Recovery Colleges are now a well-established model providing peer-led wellbeing support to people around the world and in much of the rest of the North East of England.

“At CNTW we know first-hand from our close links with Recovery Colleges in the North East how valuable they are as a complement to other mental health services. They increase people’s ability to stay well, and can be a launch pad into mainstream education, employment and re-connection with their community.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic there has rightly been a focus on its impact on people’s mental health, and we know the effects of this may last for a long time after lockdown has lifted. We want to make sure there is help for people when they need it. This new Recovery College will play a vital part in supporting communities in North Cumbria.”

Together We CIC combines mental and physical wellbeing support to provide a fully inclusive service to people of all ages across Cumbria. Sisters Janine Ward and Samantha Joughin were inspired to launch the organisation in 2017 after their brother died by suicide.

Janine Ward, Managing Director of Together We CIC, explains: “We wanted to provide a unique and responsive service to those with mental health problems, helping people to live worthwhile and meaningful lives.

“Since 2017 we have grown considerably, empowering people to take control over their mental and physical health and wellbeing by offering tailored care plans to each person which incorporate a wide range of mental health support and fitness sessions. We put the individual at the centre of their recovery journey and support them to make a difference in their lives.”

Speaking about the news that Together We CIC had been awarded the grant to set up a new Recovery College for the area, Janine said: “We are over the moon to have the great opportunity to lead on this across North Cumbria.

“We envisage a peer-led college that covers the whole of North Cumbria. We will work closely with partner organisations and people with lived experience to offer a wide range of courses that will continue to grow and develop. These courses will be co-produced and co-delivered by peers and professionals.

“This Recovery College will offer everyone the opportunity to learn from each other and to develop skills to help them on their journey to recovery, whatever that means to each individual. It will also enable people to form the connections and friendships which are vital to helping us all to stay well.

“The college will be accessible to any adults in North Cumbria who want to improve their mental health and wellbeing.

“We envisage online delivery of courses to start in May, with in-person delivery beginning around July.”

Emily, who has used Together We CIC’s service in the past and now volunteers with the organisation,  said: “Together We CIC approaches everything with enthusiasm and positivity, which will be invaluable to making the Recovery College a success.”

Peter Rooney, chief operating officer for NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are delighted that CNTW has committed to getting a Recovery College for North Cumbria off the ground. We know where they are established it is a valuable source of support and development for those that have used mental health services and we are really supportive of this venture. We’re very pleased to see the commitment to our much valued and active third sector to develop our Recovery College, and look forward to working with Together We CIC.”

The process started last year, supported by Healthwatch Cumbria, who facilitated a series of sessions bringing together the public and professionals from across the county to establish a set of Operating Principles to guide the development of the new Recovery College. The Service User and Carer Involvement team at CNTW also played a key role in ensuring that the views of mental health service users and their carers were sought and included throughout. The grant was awarded to Together We CIC following a rigorous consultation and assessment process guided by the principles established through these initial consultations.

The grant has been made by The SHINE Fund, which distributes donations made to CNTW NHS Foundation Trust to support people’s mental health and recovery. A portion of the funding for this new Recovery College has also come from NHS Charities Together’s national COVID-19 appeal, which has raised almost £150 million to date, distributed between 240 NHS charities across the country. The appeal got a particular boost when the late Captain Sir Tom Moore captured the nation’s hearts by walking laps of his garden to raise money in the run-up to his 100th birthday last April.

The first Recovery College was launched in London in 2010, and there are now more than 75 across the world.[i] In the North East, established Recovery Colleges serve Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, and Sunderland. Northumberland Recovery College, run by charity Mental Health Concern and also supported with funding from CNTW, was formed last year and has just begun offering its first ‘taster sessions’. Recovery Colleges in the North East are supported by Peer Support staff employed by CNTW, and Together We CIC’s new venture will also benefit from this network of support.

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