Partnership case study: ‘Recovery College’ by Southdown

The Recovery College reaches out to individuals within communities who are experiencing mental health problems through an innovative educational model. It provides a safe and supportive space for people to develop insight into mental health problems, and strategies to become more resilient to manage their impact.

Our challenge

Brighton and Hove’s local prevalence of mental illness is generally higher than the national average both for common mental health problems and severe mental illness. There is a particularly high rate of admissions to hospital for mental health. For example, the standardised rate for 2009-12 for Brighton and Hove was 328 compared with 243 for England (Brighton & Hove JSNA 2013 pg.2).

Our target group is a relatively wide one, as we are open to anyone of working age who has experience of mental health problems, who lives and is registered with a GP in Brighton & Hove. The courses are also open to carers and clinicians and other healthcare professionals who feel they would benefit.

The Recovery College model addresses needs within the community around social isolation, lack of coping strategies and self-management skills to become resilient to mental health problems and poor understanding and insight into diagnosis and mental health experience.

Our solution                                                             

The Recovery College is based on an educational and inclusive model where co production between people with lived experience (peer trainers) and clinicians is paramount. They will develop the course content together and co- deliver the course itself. This breaks down barriers and provides a grounding element to the training which is based in both theory and reality.

The courses cover a variety of topics and have included ‘Living with Bi Polar Disorder’, ‘Introduction to Personality Disorder’, ‘5 ways to win: Resilience and Wellbeing’, ‘Carer Awareness Training’, ‘Planning your Recovery’, ‘Working with Voices’, and ‘Introduction to Hoarding’.

All courses are designed to promote self-management, social inclusion, and sharing experience with others, not only for people who are experiencing mental health problems themselves but also their carers and professionals.

The experience at the college also goes towards developing structure and purpose; a spring board to go on to other educational or training opportunities.

South West London Recovery College completed a pilot study and followed up with their students 18 months later. Their findings reflect the positive impact the college was able to have. 68% of the ex-students said that they felt more hopeful for the future, 81% had developed their own plan for managing their problems and staying well and 70% had become mainstream students, gained employment or become a volunteer.

Our impact

The Recovery College measures its outcomes by completing an initial Individual Learning Plan with its students before the course(s) commence. This involves asking the students to score themselves on the learning outcomes for the specific course. This is then revisited at the end of the course to see the change in score.

We also use two wellbeing outcome measurement tool: The Short Warwick and Edinburgh Wellbeing Scale and the CHOICE scale. The students then will complete these scales at the end of the course to measure any change in score.

Last term’s outcomes:

  • an average improvement of 18.6 on Choice scale and 3.9 on Warwick and Edinburgh scale
  • 97% of students met their personal goals
  • 92% of students met their learning outcomes
  • 70% felt more ready to return to work
  • 84% felt more ready to go onto further education
  • 94% felt their social network had expanded

Our partners

The majority of Recovery Colleges are run by NHS Trusts. In our case however, the Brighton & Hove Clinical Commissioning Group were open to Southdown Housing Association using a proportion of the funding that  would normally be used to fund traditional day services for mental health to fund the Recovery College. It is run in partnership with Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust (SPFT). SPFT provide clinician trainers for courses and organise and chair an educational board.

Grants for specific courses have been received from the local Public Health funding through a recent health and wellbeing strategy in Brighton and Hove.

Partnerships with local third sector organisations have been integral to provide the specialist skills required to facilitate specific courses such as – ‘Wellbeing through Nature’ where we partnered up with the organisation GROW – who specialise in eco therapy. This also supports our students to become more familiar with activities and services within the local community.

Our role

The Recovery College, although not a housing initiative, provides indirect support and resilience to people with mental health problems to maintain their housing. It is widely known that mental health problems contribute significantly to people’s housing breaking down, leading to homelessness. Brighton and Hove JSNA report 2013 mentioned that the link between mental health and homelessness was strong within Brighton and Hove and suggested that with up and coming changes to benefits and housing there will be increased levels of difficulty with housing and associated mental health problems.

The Recovery College endeavours to provide a platform for people to feel empowered to find ways to live well with their mental health problems, which in turn creates more likelihood of sustained and well managed tenancies. 

Southdown Housing Association provides a variety of services within the Brighton and Hove Community. The Recovery College is based within a building where there are two services which are designed to prevent homelessness and are widely advertised in the local community and within the college. 

Our contribution to improving health

We believe that the Recovery College addresses the following health indicators:

  • NHS outcome 2.5 enhancing quality of life for people with mental illness. (ASCOF 1F**, PHOF 1.8**)
  • NHS Outcome 2.4 enhancing quality of life for carers (ASCOF 1D**)
  • NHS Outcome 1.5 reducing premature mortality in people with mental illness. (PHOF 4.9*, PHOF 4.10)
  • NHS outcome 4.7 improving experience of healthcare for people with mental illness.
  • Public Health outcome 2.23v average Warwick and Edinburgh mental wellbeing scale WEMWEBS score.
  • Public Health outcome 4.10 healthcare and premature mortality rate – suicide rate.
  • Adult Social Care outcome 1 I: proportion of people who use services and carers, who reported that they had as much social contact as they would like. (ASCOF 1 I)
  • The Recovery College is also in-line with the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) key quality standard of supporting self-management, in accordance with their service user experience guidance (2011).