We believe it is crucial to involve people with lived experience of mental health problems, and accessing mental health services, in all our work – to ensure that the needs of service users and carers are represented and reflected in everything we do.
Think Ahead’s Service User and Carer Reference Group was established in November 2014. The members of the group provide us with a wealth of knowledge, experience, and invaluable advice, and their input fundamentally shapes our work. For example, since the group’s creation it has been involved in developing:
- Our approach to participant recruitment and assessment.
- The design of practice placements.
- The programme’s academic curriculum.
- Our brand and our communications strategy.
The Service User and Carer Reference Group meets regularly throughout the year. Outside of these meetings, members can also get involved in various aspects of our work such as assessing, teaching, and presenting at events.
The group is led by an independent chair, Oliver Wood. Oliver has been involved in the service user movement for nearly twenty years. Drawing on his ongoing experience as a mental health service user, he works to promote inclusion and improve services. Oliver believes that by including those who use services in their design, delivery and evaluation we can work together to deliver real change. Oliver is currently working as a Lay Member with Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group and provides sessional input into the training of Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists at Northumbria University.