Laura was presented with her certificate by Community Organisers Programme Manager, Naomi Diamond, and talked to Naomi about why she signed up for the training and what she gained from it.
Laura works for Healthwatch Stoke-on-Trent. Healthwatch is the independent champion for health and social care in Stoke-on-Trent and its purpose is to give people a voice and support the interests of local people in how health and social care services are run and planned. There is a Healthwatch in every area of the country.
Laura recently came to work for Healthwatch and signed up for community organising training to help her in her role as a Healthwatch Community Outreach lead.
She explained that she enjoyed the training, which gave her the opportunity to meet all kinds of people who care about their community or are involved in groups where she might reach people and let them know about Healthwatch. So, the connections she made at the training were valuable to her.
She particularly enjoyed the listening skills section of the course and thinking about how Healthwatch reach and out and listen to people who might have a story to tell or want to have a voice in the health system. Because it isn’t always easy for people to understand what Healthwatch is for and to reach people.
“That’s what I learned from that day – there’s other things we can do to reach people, how to approach them. How to overcome the barriers. A lot of people just put the phone down on you if they haven’t heard of you. So, thinking about other ways to approach people, through groups, churches or knowing a particular person. It’s important to build relationships because when I started the role there was a lot of people just putting the phone down on me.”
And how you listen to them is really important too.
“When you listen to people it’s important that your body language doesn’t influence people to just say what they think you want to hear. You always need to reflect, if you don’t do things right, so you know by next time what you did wrong.”
Laura discussed how Healthwatch can help people to have power in the health service in different ways – for example through raising issues about failures in services with service managers, and through supporting groups of service users to respond to gaps by setting up their own support groups.
Laura (left) with community organiser Penny Vincent of All the Small Things Social Action Hub.
Laura did her training with All the Small Things CIC, the Social Action Hub in Stoke-on-Trent. Penny Vincent, community organiser and trainer at All the Small Things commented: “It would be really interesting to map what Healthwatch does against the Social Action Hub Framework and then to create a Healthwatch version of it.”
They agreed to meet soon and talk about how using community organising approaches more could help Healthwatch in supporting people to have a say and to have more power in how health and social care services are planned and run.