Paul Larkin, from the Camden NHS Mental Health Intensive Outreach Team has been working to heighten awareness about BME groups within his team.
Paul has been working closely with VAC to reach out to ‘hard-to-reach’ BME communities in Camden.
Camden is such an ethnically diverse borough. My role is part of the BME (Black Minority Ethnics Groups) focused lead and as part of the restructuring of the NHS community teams. We work with people with chronic problems – drugs and alcohol issues – such a mixed bag of people and problems so understanding the different problems and cultures of people who are here that aren’t English is extremely important.
Q. Before you started working with VAC what were the main issues you faced in your work?
Camden has the highest level of mixed race people using the mental health services in England. A big challenge is when groups isolate themselves. There are a lot of historic and cultural expectations on men and women and how religion and mental health and medication are viewed. So it’s very challenging.
But our biggest challenge as a sector is delivering the quality of care with higher expectations. I argue the cases for my more chronic clients. It takes a year or more for them to get to know me. Working through all the psychosis and delusions to get them to understand. And for me I want to understand before being understood. Where is the time to build that relationship, to build that trust and respect?
VAC provides a network of people, networks and information, that saves that time for us. It increases our awareness in me and my team. VAC are proactive and professional very driven and passionate.
That non-judgemental environment is very important. It draws people in. And the platform VAC provided, those forums, are very important. Without those groups I wouldn’t have the time in a million years to make contact with those people. It’s a very valuable place for me to come. To get all those people in one room. To keep my finger on the pulse and to find out what’s going on around me.
Q. Can you describe what you’ve been doing with these groups so far?
I’m trying to heighten the awareness [about these groups] within my team. My role is getting information, linking to community groups and bringing those back to my NHS teams. I link service users and keyworkers to those groups. So if a Bangladeshi lady comes in, a key worker would come to me and say ‘what do you know?’ and I would then link them, provide that information. It’s sign posting, raising awareness.
Q. Why did you choose to approach VAC and what were you looking for?
A. As part of my role I had to get out there, I had to meet the people involved. Our own Trust put me in touch with VAC. VAC has well established links with BME communities. I was relying on VAC to show me the links they have, and they have done that.. I was also looking at how we all work together collaborating more……to provide a lot more understanding about what we all do.
Certain groups are really hard to engage with and I’ve been very impressed with what VAC has done to establish those connections.
Q. How has the work you’ve done so far with VAC made a difference in your particular organisation?
A. The information I’ve passed from VAC has provided a very diverse set of contacts. The impact of VAC has been to give me the information I need to give back to my team so we can do our work, which is exactly what I wanted. We couldn’t have found all that in one place anywhere else, not to that degree- So it’s a very direct impact. Everyone knows one another in that group, there’s a strong sense of understanding of the challenges. I wouldn’t have got that sense without that group. I don’t think there’s another organisation like VAC.
You can find out more about the work of the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust on their website at: www.candi.nhs.uk/
For more information about VAC’s involvement with Mental Health initiatives in Camden, please see our Mental Health Project page.