28th January issue

Wolverhampton’s Service User Involvement Team are doing so much, it was difficult to cram it all into one article (cover story). Behind the tangible successes of the group are a raft of partnerships and a lot of goodwill and co-operation from neighbouring services, including treatment providers, police, probation, and businesses like the local art gallery, who are being generous with facilities and offering new opportunities to develop talent.

The group is powered by the enthusiasm and commitment of its project manager and team, including a growing band of volunteers, and is given vital support by the local commissioner, the regional alliance advocate (who was determined to see the service user group regenerated to useful purpose) and others.

It’s not all been plain sailing. But the team’s journey is an inspiring example of what determination, creativity and enthusiasm can achieve when carefully blended with a vital base mixture of structured planning. Trickier issues will test the group’s patience, but they have passed a vital milestone in getting local services to engage in a dialogue of improvement and to publicly display their responses to criticism in their waiting rooms, in a show of commitment to do better. In a short space of time, the group has become an impossible-to ignore element of local treatment planning. The comments from SUIT’s members show the difference the initiative has had on their lives and outlook – and that’s got to be encouragement to those who are wondering whether the workload is worth it.

We wanted to know how other service user groups around the country were getting on, so have extended our regular ‘fact file’ for this issue, to create space for a round-up of eight groups. We’ll keep the fact files coming in future issues, but hopefully it will give encouragement that, in the words of Wakefield’s correspondent, ‘one step at a time will amount to a giant leap’!

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