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My First Fulfilling Lives Team Day (October 2016)

Fulfilling Lives Newcastle Gateshead held a Team Day on 13 October in which all staff members, members of our Experts by Experience group, and line managers from our Employing Organisations were invited to learn about the progress of the programme so far, and to take part in some good old-fashioned team building activities! As one of the newest members of the team, this was the first Team Day for our Communications Assistant, Ellie.

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I attended my first Team Day this month, after being a part of the Fulfilling Lives team for almost 5 months. The day was the first time I had met some of the line managers from our Employing Organisations, and overall, I found it a highly useful and eye-opening day.

The purpose of the Team Day was to update everyone about the programme’s progress so far, and in particular, how we have developed and changed our way of working since the last Team Day 6 months ago.

The morning session consisted of progress reports from our Programme Manager and Research and Evaluation Lead. Since Fulfilling Lives Newcastle Gateshead began in 2014, we have worked with 229 clients. Of this number, 98% presented with substance misuse problems when they first engaged with us; 95% had mental health problems; and 55% were homeless at time of referral.

I was shocked by just how high these figures were: almost all of the people our team works with have both mental health and substance misuse issues, yet anecdotal evidence tells me that services often turn people away presenting with co-existing needs meaning the most vulnerable people are slipping through the net.

A statistic that surprised many of us in attendance was that 50% of our client group are disabled – a figure that was much higher than we expected and members from our Employing Organisations expressed an interest in researching this further.

We were fortunate to welcome Nicola Drinkwater, Policy Officer for Clinks, to our Team Day. She spoke to us about the ways in which we can influence policy to make our hope for the programme a reality and provided helpful advice on how everyone, no matter what their job role in the programme, has a part to play in the larger picture of sustainable system change.

Nicola got our team thinking about the reasons why they wanted to influence policy and create system change, rather than thinking immediately about how we can.

Some of our reasons included:

“to build equality” ; “to open up a conversation” ; “to stop people using services year-in year-out”

Nicola then split the group up into 4 workshops in which our team looked at our 4 key areas of system change and start to work out what needed changing, what they had the capacity to influence, and how they could do it. The outcomes of this workshop will be reflected on by our team and developed into real strategies to improving the 4 key areas we have pledged to look at for the next 2 years.

It was great to hear the outcomes of everyone’s workshops. I feel like with Nicola’s guidance the whole team has been reawakened and reinvigorated to creating sustainable and realistic change in Newcastle and Gateshead, and everyone now feels more confident in what they can do within their job role to support this.

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Following a hearty lunch in which we worked our way through 30 Eat4Less sandwiches, mini muffins and crisps, our System Brokers Richy and Alex hosted a team-building afternoon. Activities included navigating our way out of handcuffs, and building the highest structure using only cocktail sticks and jelly babies!

The afternoon was light-hearted and an enjoyable way to get to know the rest of the team a bit better: the type of work that we do means we don’t share an office space and don’t often have the opportunity (or time!) to get together and reflect on the progress we’re making.  Despite a very tense finale in which competitiveness got the best of everyone during our team quiz, I left the day feeling excited about the work we are doing and more a part of the team.