History of North Staffs Users Group
North Staffs Users Group had its origins in a meeting in 1992 between a service user and an interested worker who at the time worked for the National Schizophrenia Federation (NSF). It was at these meetings that the idea evolved of establishing a group that could exert some influence over service provision in the statutory sector. The main impetus for this came from the dissatisfaction that service users felt about the way that they were treated by the statutory providers of mental health services. A funding document was produced and funders were approached. Some funding was made available in 1992, to cover the expenses of those involved in setting up and attending meetings of the group.
After initial funding ceased the Group’s pioneer members put together a bid for funding from the Health Authority and Social Services. This was successful and provided funding for a co-ordinator and part time outreach worker. By 1994 there were 24 Members on the mailing list, an office base was established in Hanley and St Edward’s Hospital Council launched. The first edition of our newsletter, The Voice was published in 1994 and launched a recruitment drive. The constitution was agreed and the Group registered as a Charity. Membership reached 60 by the end of the year.
1995 saw a period of development of the information leaflets published on a variety of issues to inform members of their rights in a way that they found useful, all information being product tested by members themselves. The Volunteer Ward Representative scheme was launched at St Edward’s Hospital (the local psychiatric hospital at the time), as a way of getting resident’s views into the Hospital Council. The Group signed an Empowerment Agreement with the local acute care provider, Combined Healthcare and were successful in obtaining a Lottery grant to support the development of community branches. By 2000, the group was able to appoint a worker to be based in St Edwards. Over this period membership grew to 500.
By 2014, membership had grown to over 1000, there were seven paid members of staff and the decision was made to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). NSUG now covers the whole of North Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent, visiting statutory providers, voluntary sector and peer run groups to listen to the views of people who access mental health services. Over recent time the relevance of the name North Staffs Users Group was questioned, so members were asked to make suggestions for a name that may better reflect who we are and what we do. Following a vote from members, the new name North Staffs Voice for Mental Health, was agreed upon at the AGM in 2016. However, regardless what the organisation is called, the original purpose of providing people with a voice is still at its heart.
- To improve mental health services
- To bring together people who use mental health services, in order to increase their influence on services and to strengthen their voice
- To inform people of their rights, about local services and any planned changes
- To empower and protect the rights, needs and interests of people who use mental health services in North Staffordshire
- To influence the way those services are planned and delivered
- To reduce stigma towards people who have mental health problems