PSW Describes Traumatic Experience: Part 1

Behind all collectives, there are always individuals, with individual experiences that have led them to join and fight discrimination as part of a wider group. One Peer Support Worker in Birmingham is sharing what initially appeared to be an exciting opportunity to one that became a harrowing experience.

PART ONE…… MY GRANDMOTHER

I was trained by (A Birmingham NHS Trust) as a Peer Support Worker. I first heard the term PSW/Advocate in 2014 while an inpatient at the (Worcester NHS Ward). I was excited when to be released from “Red Neck County” the ward managers words not mine to learn how to become a PSW for (Birmingham NHS Trust). To my dismay and bewilderment there wasn’t such a post. I attended meetings and asked questions until finally here I was applying for a place on the course.

For me looking back now it was just what I needed. It was a sort of therapy, sharing stories in a room full of people with similar experiences. Plus, training for the opportunity to help others who have felt lost and hopeless was both exciting and scary. The course wasn’t easy by any means, Peer training was accredited with the Open University, Certificate level. The only obstacle we faced was the assignment at the end of the course, many of us out of education for many years. I breathed a sigh of relief when I got my mark and passed, finally I was a step closer to becoming a Peer. A chance to help others struggling but also getting the support to manage my own wellbeing what could go wrong?????

I wasn’t long in my role when the then Peer Supervisor asked me if I would like to share my story with the board. I felt honoured to be asked it was going to be doubly special for me because the date set was my daughter’s 10th Birthday. I did consider rescheduling but a couple of hours out of such a special day was poignant. I was in hospital on her 4th birthday, I spent most of that day crying so to share my journey so far was an indescribable feeling. On the actual day I was so nervous I spilt coffee on my clothes while waiting. The room was full it was quite nerve wracking… I was offered the seat next to the Chief executive. The Deputy gave me a warm smile, this was the top of the chain.

I began my talk with my Grandmother’s story who came to England as part of the Windrush Generation, bringing with her 5 children and a husband who as soon as he reached British shores disappeared leaving her alone in a foreign country….. A baker by trade she trained up as a Nurse and became a well-respected Senior Nurse for (a Birmingham NHS Hospital) and then a Health visitor in her Local area helping a lot of underprivileged families and their children….. Now here I was with tears streaming down my face a Proud Peer working for the same NHS as my Grandmother making a difference in Birmingham where I was born and bred. The meeting concluded with the promise of 100 more trained PSW for (the Birmingham NHS Trust). I left feeling excited a promise of more peers definitely meant career progression……….

Read Part 2 here:

Birmingham NHS Trusts Reject Funding for Band 7 LXP Post

Birmingham NHS Trusts have been behind comparable NHS trusts in their employment of LXPs for over a decade. Local NHS organisations typically employ peer support workers at a Band 2. There are currently no senior or specialist posts for LXPs. 

In December 2020 NHSE offered the opportunity for all Mental Health NHS trusts in the UK to apply for funding to employ a Band 7 LXP post. This would have given a local Trust the chance to make history locally in breaking the glass ceiling that currently exists for LXPs. Sadly, this opportunity was not taken. No LXPs were informed that this funding had been offered, and none were involved in the decision to reject it. LXPs locally have been asking for senior posts such as this for years, only to be told that the funding does not exist to employ people in these types of posts. 

This recent decision has brought that into question. Is that really the reason? Or is the reason…. 

                       ….something else?

The LXP Revolution

The Revolution isn’t new. It’s just been invisible – like us. They haven’t seen us, and we haven’t seen each other – but we’ve been there.

For as long as we have existed, people who have worked within the Lived Experience Professions have reported examples of exploitation. Labour had been unpaid, poorly paid and emotional labour has regularly been abused. The most frightening thing is that these examples happen in plain sight, but are not seen. When individuals report these issues, they are often alone and do not have access to support from other LXPs, people who can validate their experiences and explain this phenomenon to them. Well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) colleagues may think they are offering support through attempts at telling LXPs that issues they are raising are based on their own perception, or that these issues do not exist.

The Revolution has been the times where we have met other LXPs, shared our stories, learnt that we are not alone. The Revolution has been the times we have supported each other to carry on. The Revolution has been whenever we have reminded each other or ourselves of what LXPs do, and disentangled that from it becoming entangled into a generic organisational post that bears no relation to the heart and soul of what we do. The Revolution is when we are challenging something in a world where we are alone.

The most powerful thing we have in this Revolution is sharing our support, knowledge experiences and validating what is happening to us.