How we focus on our actual beneficiaries is important as is how they are beginning to influence ICM’s service delivery. For a long time the insight we’ve heard from experts has been from people who have been out of services for some time, and they still continue to have a significant impact to this day. As a programme in its third year we wanted to start hearing the voices of our current service users. This way, rather than hearing about other services, we will be starting to hear the good, the bad and the ugly of our own way of doing things!
We’ve taken a leaf from the ICM ‘Women’s Voices’ book on this and set up a current ICM Service User Forum.
This is their own group and they decide what they want to do. They decided to meet weekly outside of ‘business hours’ – so we do this. Each week we have different activities like games night, film night, support group, music appreciation night etc. We are also going on walk together this month in the hills.
The beauty of these kind of activities is that they come from, are planned by and delivered by service users. A sense of community is already coming together, when in the past their engagement with ICM could have felt like an isolated journey where you only meet with one worker or peer mentor. This community is the purest form of peer support.
They are not inundated with the programme’s agenda which could limit involvement to attendance at strategic meetings or conference for example. Ultimately, they are in control of their own involvement.
Another powerful result coming out of the forum is that, as they relax and have fun, they begin to open up and voice their opinions on ICM (amongst many other subjects!) so we now have 2 of our service users who are now involved in the Manchester Homelessness Charter and also want to get involved in recruitment of GROW Trainees.
They are also keen to see what ICM can do ‘when the shutters go down’, and as a result the programme team has responded and will be holding a consultation with service users, women’s voices and the core group on how we can deliver more flexible working.