Sitting at my desk in Life Rooms Walton, I can trace the Life Rooms’ journey back to a ‘Your Voice, Your Change’ event at Aintree Racecourse in 2014, attended by over 300 Mersey Care service users and carers.
At that meeting we were made aware in no uncertain terms that we needed to do something a little bit different; something that would offer people hope and aspiration beyond their diagnosis and would complement any clinical help and support that they may already be receiving for their mental ill health.
We began by inviting service users and carers to help us co-produce our People Participation Plan; traditionally this would have been a three year plan but service users and carers were adamant that they wanted to ‘see change happen quickly’ and so it needed to be an annual plan, performance managed and reported on in a robust and timely fashion.
In the plan, service users and carers identified the need for a building to be used for recovery and social inclusion, and designed to address the many social determinants of mental distress. Around the same time Liverpool City Council were being forced to put the future of nine public libraries at risk due to reduced funding. This prompted Mersey Care to engage with the Council and obtain the beautiful Carnegie Library in Walton, as it is situated in an ideal place for access from North and Central Liverpool as well as Kirkby and South Sefton. We obtained the building in November 2016; service users, carers and staff co-produced the design brief and awarded the design contract.
To learn more about the transformation of Walton library into Life Rooms Walton you can view this short video.
We have now been open for two years and have had in the region of thirty thousand visits; it has been a fantastic and character building journey. Some of the things we have learned along the way include:
- If it feels right, do it; the outcomes are worth it
- Partnerships are amazing, especially when money doesn’t need to change hands
- There is no such thing as time for consolidation and reflection
- Be proud of your achievements; when you network nationally you will be amazed how innovative you have been
In terms of the difference that the Life Rooms has made to service users, carers and local communities, we are about to open Life Rooms three in Bootle in November 2018; such is the demand that at every engagement event there are pleas for more of the same across the Mersey Care footprint. We have captured the views of service users, carers and local communities about the Life Rooms in this word cloud.
Life Rooms Bootle will be a slightly different model in that it is a partnership with Hugh Baird College and is aimed at a younger age group than Life Rooms’ Walton and Southport. Nevertheless we will press on with enthusiasm and belief in the model and hopefully I can update you at some point about its success.
If you would like any further information about the Life Rooms model, please do not hesitate to contact me on 0151 473 2764 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or visit our website at www.liferooms.org.
The Life Rooms project won the North West Coast Partnership in Innovation Award, part of the North West Coast Research and Innovation Awards 2018.
Head of Employment and Inclusion Development
Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust