Unison’s Nursing & Midwifery Occupational Group will be putting forward a motion to improve recognition and reward for lived experience workers at the union’s Annual Health Conference 24-27 April.
For a long time Lived Experience workers have been raising issues about inequalities and discrimination at work, expressing dissatisfaction at the support that existing unions provide. The Annual Health Conference provides an opportunity for motions to be put forward for the union to increase its support for members working in the health sector.
The motion is below:
Recognition and reward for Peer/Lived Experience workers
There is increasing involvement of Peer/Lived Experience (LE) workers within mental health services. These are individuals whose role is framed by making constructive use of personal experience of their own mental health difficulties and vulnerabilities. Such roles exist in a number of different contexts where such use of self is valued as the key element of professional identity, adding a unique contribution to the work of wider teams where they are working openly from an experiential lens.
Such workers are employed in a variety of settings including NHS, voluntary sector and private mental health services, also in universities responsible for mental health research and practitioner education, and within broader NHS systems such as NHSE and HEE. Indeed, some individuals are operating in unpaid roles. Job titles are varied and reflect the proliferation of roles. Examples include:
- Peer support workers
- LE Researchers
- LE Consultants
- LE Educators, Trainers and Facilitators
LE workers are either already UNISON members or are potential UNISON members. Arguably our union needs to provide a bespoke offer to this particular group of workers to better service their needs and interests.
From an employment relations perspective there are a number of points of concern with regard to fair terms and conditions, job security and career advancement opportunities. LE workers are concentrated in lower AFC bands, subject to inequities of fixed term contracts or sessional work, and do not typically progress to senior pay bands or managerial positions. The national picture is varied, but it is not necessarily typical that LE workers are managed or receive supervision from more senior LE workers.
There are also reports of tensions between the wider workforce and LE workers, and services would benefit from support, education and development to improve these relations and more supportively accommodate the contribution of LE workers. It is important that these roles are used appropriately and not as a way of undercutting the skill-mix and terms and conditions of the wider workforce.
This interface is often between nurses and LE workers. The requirement in these job roles to draw upon one’s own history of mental health problems and disclose shared experiences and vulnerabilities is cumulatively taxing and stressful for this workforce. Appropriate, supportive supervision is an essential requirement to protect workers’ welfare, though this is not always available.
Conference calls on the Health Service Group Executive to:
- Commit the nursing sector, reporting to the Service Group Executive, to a piece of work to shape Unison’s response to the employment needs of LE workers. This to involve production of guidance for the whole workforce to better support the contribution of LE workers.
- Conduct a scoping exercise of the range of LE roles and terms and conditions with a view to building a campaign for improved terms and conditions, job security and career progression for LE workers.
- Work with stakeholder organisations to develop the education, training and supervision requirements appropriate for this group
- Accomplish these objectives in alliance with appropriate groups, such as the NSUN (National Survivor User Network)
Nursing and Midwifery Occupational Group
If you are interested in joining a conversation about the Unison motion with Nursing & Midwifery Occupational Group member Professor Mick McKeown and Mad Studies Birmingham founder Tamar Jeynes on 14 April, you can book here – the event is free: