Harrison House wins prestigious Guardian award!

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Regulars will know that we’re huge fans of Harrison House in Grimsby, and I am deepy grateful for the friendship and energetic help of their incomparable Ellie Walsh. Huge congratulations to all at Harrison House and the brilliant Tukes employment company for winning the Guardian’s Public Service Awards, in the complex needs category. Here’s the lovely piece from the Guardian website:


Guardian Public Service awards

Overall winner: Tukes (part of NAViGO)

 A close-knit network


A mental health unit where users run many of the services has been successful in cutting admissions and lengths of stay. By Andrew Cole


Mental health service users take an active role in running the unique service user employment scheme




Harrison House in Grimsby is a 26-bed acute mental health facility that has been described by the Royal College of Psychiatrists as being “five years ahead of its time”. It has enviably low admission rates and lengths of stay, together with high levels of user satisfaction and consistently strong ratings for cleanliness.

One of the key factors in that success is Tukes, a unique service-user employment scheme that enables patients to take an active part in maintaining and running the unit. And last night, Tukes was named overall winner of the Guardian Public Services Awards 2011.

The social enterprise is named after 18th-century Quaker reformer William Tuke, founder of The Retreat hospital in York, who believed in encouraging mental health patients to play an active role. Tukes currently has 60 paid staff and nearly 150 service-user “members” who together provide almost every service, apart from nursing, to the North East Lincolnshire mental health economy.

Presenting the top accolade at the awards ceremony in London, broadcaster Nicky Campbell said: “Much is being expected of social enterprises in the public services and the judges considered Tukes an outstanding example of the fresh and exciting approach they can bring.”

At Harrison House, for instance, Tukes staff do all the cleaning, catering and laundry as well as managing a cafe open to the public. They are also responsible for grounds and building maintenance, and reception and concierge work.

This work is carried out by a combination of paid staff – many of whom have themselves had mental health problems – and unpaid members, from Harrison House and elsewhere, who are supported and supervised by the staff. As chief executive Kevin Bond explains, the structure allows people to be involved at any stage of their illness, including the acute phase. “People are encouraged to maintain their normal routines, not to switch off and become passive recipients.”

General manager John Ogden has no doubt this philosophy has played a big part in Harrison House’s success. “This environment helps to head off admissions in the first place and, once in, people can be there for a shorter time. It’s about maintaining as normal an environment as possible. Keeping active and keeping their skills up to date is of real benefit to their mental health.

Given that 87% of people with long-term mental health problems are currently out of work, it is easy to understand the importance of the service user employment scheme.

Tukes, which is run by North East Lincolnshire mental health services provider NAViGO, was founded eight years ago and has gradually expanded its remit since then. It now provides all NAViGO’s ancillary services, including 15 buildings and their grounds.

It is also doing an increasing amount of work in the community. This includes running three cafes, managing a successful charity shop in Grimsby and doing a variety of painting, decorating and gardening work for individuals.

In addition Tukes offers a wide range of training opportunities and employs support workers to ensure everyone in the organisation has the back-up they need. In Ogden’s view, though, it is the informal support network provided by other workers and volunteers that is one of the system’s strongest ingredients.

“Everybody looks after each other. Because most people have had their own problems they understand others’ problems. So somebody with a mental health problem who may be leading the cleaning team will help someone who is new.”

In recent years Tukes has extended its scope beyond people with mental health problems to those with physical or learning disabilities who are looking for work. Despite the recession and higher than average unemployment in Lincolnshire, the formula seems to be working. Last year, for instance, Tukes generated an income of £320,000 and its 100 active members put in 3,500 hours of work each month.

The impact on people’s lives can be dramatic. “We see people who are shy, timid and lacking in confidence, and suddenly they’re managing one of the cafes or cleaning team or taking charge of the buffet,” says Ogden.

He mentions one user who had multiple hospital admissions in the year before joining the Tukes scheme. Over the first 18 months she did not have a single admission and although she recently had a relapse, she is now back on the scheme and has been working for a level two mental health qualification.
Ogden says: “She’s completely changed her life around as a result of Tukes. She isn’t cured, but she doesn’t become ill for so long.”

As a social enterprise Tukes also prides itself on reinvesting any profits in the organisation. Recently, for instance, it redeveloped an old bus shelter into a workshop designed to help members learn the basics of do-it-yourself and built a room with 10 computers to help members develop information technology skills.

It is also helping an average of 1.5 members a month to find employment outside Tukes, through job searching and support with application forms and interview skills.

“We’ve found a simple recipe of giving people a role and making them feel good about themselves, and that can do so much good for them and for NAViGO,” says Ogden.

For more information on Harrison House, click here.

And we’ve got a 6 part HH series on our youtube channel!






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