Andy Bagley is a trustee of Leeds Survivor Led Crisis service. Every registered charity has a board of trustees that take responsibility for the strategy and governorship of the charity, looking at the budgets, regulations, accountability, policies, and making sure the charity is acting in the best interest of the public, among others. Andy talks about his personal journey that has brought him onto the LSLCS board.
Six months ago I retired from full-time work and became a trustee for LSLCS. Before then, I was a freelance consultant supporting charities with evaluation and helping them to demonstrate impact. Becoming a trustee was part of maintaining my connections with the voluntary sector, and helping further where I could.
So why, of the dozens of charities I had worked with, did I offer myself to LSLCS? The first answer is that I had supported the organisation previously, using an evaluation method known as Social Return on Investment (SROI). This comprehensive and detailed approach goes beyond counting numbers and collecting feedback; it analyses the real value that charities generate, both for service users and others. It also puts a monetary value on outcomes including health, wellbeing and emotional benefits that are not commonly assessed in this way.
This gave me an understanding of, and huge respect for, the work that LSLCS does. My last SROI report in 2018 showed, for example, that LSLCS:
- Saves lives and reduces the incidence of self-harm
- Supports recovery, and improves the lives of visitors and callers in many different situations
- Benefits staff, volunteers, statutory services, and the families and friends of visitors and callers, as well as visitors and callers themselves
- Produces a ‘social value’ figure of around ten times the income it receives
- Can be very valuable even for people who visit just a few times
- Works effectively with other voluntary sector organisations (e.g. Touchstone, Leeds Mind, The Market Place) as well as with NHS services
- Reduces demand on NHS services, resulting in significant financial savings
Is facing high and steadily increasing demand; it would generate higher value still if it did not have to decline so many visits due to limited capacity
- Currently reaches more women than men, despite the suicide rate in Leeds being much higher for men
But my belief in LSLCS was based on more than just this analysis. It was, and remains, also about the organisation’s ethos, the way it works, and the people there. I found talking to staff, visitors, callers and group members during my evaluation to be immensely interesting and rewarding. Everyone has their own situation and their own story, and there are clearly no universal solutions around mental health. None of my analysis negates the dedicated work of NHS mental health services and other support organisations; but different solutions work for different people, and for many it is LSLCS that provides the lifeline they need.
Similarly, the design and commissioning of crisis services across Leeds has to be more than simply counting numbers or reviewing opening hours. We need to continue learning more about what works and why for different individuals in different situations, and understand how these services can work together to turn around people’s lives. Ultimately, I would like to see Leeds in the forefront of reducing self-harm and suicide nationally, with LSLCS, its partners and commissioners leading the way.