Two teen ex-offenders have been appointed as the first service user representatives on the Health and Wellbeing Team (HWBT), run by an NHS Trust at a Young Offenders’ Institution (YOI).
Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) have appointed Sam and Jerome (not their real names) to help in promoting its CAMHS work throughout YOI Cookham Wood – which caters for 15-18-year-old boys – and in helping to de-stigmatise mental health issues throughout the site's population.
Sam and Jerome will join CNWL team members in running groups for young people newly entering custody, helping to orientate them to the mental health services available and to think about coping with the struggles of being a teenager in prison.
The roles reflect the team's awareness of the importance of involving service users at every level of service design and delivery.
They also offer opportunities for the young people to get involved with the team's research programme, to advise on the team's policies and processes, and to help reach out to young people who might otherwise be reluctant to engage.
To help others identify the duo they will wear T-shirts with a logo specially designed by one of the pair.
Lead clinical psychologist at YOI Cookham Wood, Dr Celia Sadie, said: "The boys have already had an impact on our work and we are grateful for their insights.
“They have advised the team on the type of promotional materials that would work when advertising the therapeutic groups available; attended team research training; and have organised and participated in a focus group contributing to the ongoing review of the treatment and outcomes for black and minority ethnic people in the criminal justice system by David Lammy MP.
"They will be able to reach out to young people in a way that adult authority figures might not be able to, which will help us in our work of providing mental health care and support."
The team have put in place an application process, contracts, and a system of support for the young people, who will have monthly supervision with psychologists from the team to help them develop their skills and confidence. The scheme is intended to enable the young people to feel truly valued and to help them see how they can make positive contributions.
The pair said they are excited to get started and are enthusiastic about their roles. “I believe young people involving themselves as service user reps will enable the HWBT to be more well-known and ensure people feel more comfortable taking part in therapeutic sessions, as this should be seen as a positive,” said Jerome.