Showcasing: Consumer and Carer Action Group
Far West Local Health District Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Division
Living Well domain
- Putting People First
The Consumer and Carer Action Group (CCAG) is a group of consumers and carers of the Far West Local Health District (LHD) Mental Health Drug and Alcohol (MHDA) services. The group provides feedback, lived-experienced perspectives and engages in codesign of resources as well as service planning, delivery and evaluation of MHDA services.
The group was formed in 2013 and has been engaged since, growing over time and influencing key changes to service planning and delivery. Some CCAG members have been involved since the group’s establishment and others joined in 2020. Ages range from people in their 20s to their late 60s. The group is diverse and passionate which is what makes it so successful.
The LHD provides funding to support catering, resource creation and paid participation for CCAG members.
The LHD’s challenge is to ensure that authentic consumer and carer codesign occurs and lived-experience / service user perspectives are brought into all aspects of service planning, delivery and evaluation.
The LHD established the CCAG in 2013 and provides it with ongoing practical and governance support. The consumers and carers are paid a sitting fee.
The CCAG works with key stakeholders to enable their perspectives to be heard and actioned through a close working relationship with the Manager of Consumer and Carer Engagement MHDA.
The CCAG governance structure includes people with lived experience of a mental health issue (consumers) and carers, key staff from the Far West LHD including the MHDA Director, Manager of Consumer and Carer Engagement MHDA, Consumer Engagement Coordinator MHDA and MHDA peer workers. The policies that govern the group are reviewed every few years and the Terms of Reference are reviewed annually.
The group meet once a month from February to November, usually for four hours each session. The agenda has an emphasis on change or action. The CCAG may invite guest speakers to give updates on service delivery, for example, the Director MHDA.
New members are referred by anyone. People can refer themselves, a case-manager might refer someone, or the Manager of Consumer and Carer Engagement might directly contact potential members. The Far West LHD held a meet and greet and sought expressions of interest from the community in early 2020 which worked well resulting in two new members joining the CCAG.
The CCAG reports their accomplishments to all stakeholders each year. Accomplishments include a successful application to receive $50,000 Therapeutic Innovations funding to improve the Mental Health Inpatient Unit. It has created resources for the Mental Health Inpatient Unit regarding Rights for Consumers and Carers, consumer wellbeing plans, other local services and directories for support. The CCAG plays a key part in policy review and consultation. CCAG members were key contributors in the co-design of the Connection Program, an after-hours and weekend Mental Health Program that aims to reduce loneliness and social isolation.
Another function is to assist the MHDA service reduce the use of seclusion and restraint by being part of consultations about education and impact of restrictive practice on consumers and carers and contributing to policy and statistics review.
The CCAG has received positive feedback and gained respect for its contributions.
One CCAG member comment, below, captures the change in the LHD approach over time and the value of being involved in the CCAG:
“I am pleasantly amazed that MHDA sees it as their responsibility to ensure that the voice of all consumers/carers is heard by the service and that everyone has an opportunity to participate.
My last contact with mental health services was in the mid 1990s when no input was sought from or information given by the service to carers in cases where the consumer was an adult. It is an exciting direction to be going in for a service that has obviously become much more open and consultative.”
- Agnes, CCAG member
The next steps are to continue to build the group in both size and presence. The LHD aims to continue to empower the CCAG, advocate for the group and enable change and action based on the lived-experience and perspectives of the group as representative to the community.