“Working within an organisation where colleagues at all levels are supportive and passionate about the work we do with children, young people and families has inspired and motivated me in my role. “

 What’s your role at Virgin Care?

I am the Participation Lead for Devon Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

How did you join?

I have been doing this role for 8 years so was already part of the CAMHS team when we joined with Virgin Care. The move into Virgin Care felt very smooth from my perspective – I felt I was able to maintain the autonomy I had been used to and at the same time was aware that there was support if I needed it.

What’s your professional background?

My professional background is in teaching. I have taught art, design and photography in secondary schools and F.E. colleges in Devon and Bristol. I am also a qualified Integrative Counsellor and have worked in schools and as a private practitioner.

What’s your role in CAMHS?

My role is to engage with children, young people, parents and carers and support them to contribute to the development and improvement of our service. That could involve anything from helping to recruit staff, to training staff, to helping to produce information and job descriptions, to redesigning and decorating waiting areas and therapy rooms.

What are you working on at the moment to help everyone feel the difference?

Along with a group of clinicians that have made a commitment to support my work, I am establishing 3 local participation groups. The young people that join these groups will be able to work collaboratively with clinical teams to make sure CAMH services across the county are improving their provision in line with the views of their service users.

How has your role developed since you joined us?

When I took up the post of Participation Worker in 2009 it was a brand new role in CAMHS and there was very little service user engagement work at that time. Initially I worked exclusively with children and young people and focused mainly on developing participation in staff recruitment and selection. In a broader sense, my objective was to help embed the principles and philosophy of service user participation across the service.

There is now a strong commitment to participation in all areas of the service and as a result my role has diversified. I continue to support staff recruitment, but also support young people and parents/carers to deliver staff training and a wide range of other service improvement activities. I also support and encourage other CAMHS staff  to development participation work within their areas and teams.

I sit on the CAMHS Transformation Board  to contribute to the strategic development of participation and I now work with parents and carers as well as children and young people and,as part of the South West  CYP IAPT Collaborative, I work with CAMHS Participation Workers from Somerset, Cornwall, Torbay, Plymouth and Bristol.

What’s the most challenging part of your role?

The biggest challenges are often logistical ones. It can be frustrating when staff and service users are committed to undertaking a piece of work, but other pressures and commitments make it difficult to progress. When I took up the post it was sometimes a challenge to convince professionals of the value and importance of service user participation, but this is rarely the case now.

How have you felt the difference since you joined Virgin Care?

Working within an organisation where colleagues at all levels are supportive and passionate about the work we do with children, young people and families has inspired and motivated me in my role.

What do you enjoy most about working for Virgin Care?

Lots of the young people I have worked with have said they believe that CAMHS staff  are most helpful when they (the staff) feel well in themselves. Virgin Care seems to place a strong emphasis on the wellbeing of their staff. Feeling valued by the organisation, colleagues and most importantly, the young people and families I work with, makes the work enjoyable and incredibly rewarding.

What would you say to someone considering a role at Virgin Care?

Virgin Care has sound principles and a philosophy of supporting staff well so that they can, in turn, provide good support to the people that use their services…so give it a go.

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Our paediatrician really makes me feel comfortable and is so eloquent. It’s difficult to discuss any issues a child may have but she really made me feel at ease with her.

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