Blog by Tamar Jeynes, Unison Health Conference Delegate (2022).
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a Mad Activist & I founded the Mad Studies Birmingham, which has a Lived Experience Professions focus, 3.5 years ago. The group attracts an intersection, international, wide ranging group of people from various disciplines, non-LXP as well as LXP. I’m here at the Unison Health Conference 2022 as a Delegate to speak for and vote for Motion 19 which will support Reward & Recognition of LXP workers.
Today is the first day of Conference. This is a conference that could make a huge difference to Lived Experience Workers, and the unique discrimination and lack of support that we experience. After a massive rant on Twitter over my own experience (which is a universal one for many of us) Mick McKeown, a Twitter pal who I have done research work with, got in contact. I never realised he was on one of the National Unison groups – the Nursing and Midwifery Occupational Group. I had another emotional rant, on my own situation, but also on the situation that is universal to many of us who are Unison members (or who can’t get much needed Union membership).
I sent an email afterwards, giving a general description of the range of lived experience work – some exploited and unpaid, involvement work, employees, sessional workers. All across different disciplines. To be honest little is known about us, we are disparate, alone, isolated, badly treated and badly paid. It is hard to band together because of this.
The motion is crafted to work as a scoping exercise to work with a lived experience led organisation understand how many and who are members are, the issues we face, and the exact levels of exploitation in pay we are facing. Once we have this, we will be able to effectively support members – some of whom have have been moved to suicide attempts or completion due to discrimination they have faced.
We need support.
The motion also pushes for education of Unison members to better understand the issues that LXP members face, and to improve working relationships, reducing discrimination, stigma and bullying. LXP staff wear their Mental Health diagnosis label on their foreheads, ‘Out’ to colleagues. It is a brave and scary thing to do, and we need support.
If you are a reading this between 25-27 April 2022, please support this motion and LXPs on Twitter using the hashtag #uhealth22. The motion is tomorrow – Tuesday morning, 26 April – so get Tweeting!!!
****PLEASE VOTE IF YOU ARE A UNISON DELEGATE AT THE CONFERENCE!!! ****
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
You can also see a recording of the Mad Studies session where Mick joined us to discuss the motion below: