Rob is finalist in Social Worker of the Year Awards!

Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in #ProudofDPT, News on 6th November, 2018

Rob Manchester, Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) and Social Worker, from the Devon AMHP Service Teignbridge locality, has been shortlisted for the 'Creative and Innovative Social Work Practice' Award at the Social Worker of the Year Awards!

You can read Rob's nomination below:

"From the moment he arrived, it was clear that the service user’s voice was paramount for Rob and that he was going to challenge established professional thinking – and those around him – to not simply accept the status quo. At times, by his own admission, Rob was little rough around the edges, even sharp sometimes – but he was learning. It is to his credit that, along with his increasing maturity and humility, his core values remain readily visible and central to his professional social work considerations. That passion has not dissipated.

"By working in co-production with the Experts by Experience group (EbyE) at The Bridge Collective in Exeter, Rob Manchester has been able to create something unique in the AMHP world. He has created a space where those on both sides of the process can come together and share their experience in a safe and constructive way, to explore the impacts of those experiences, and develop learning from each other.

"'Conversations across the divide', as it has become known, built on the connections and commitment Rob has shown to the service user and carer-led Bridge Collective over many years. When so much of social work practice in statutory mental health service is process driven, Rob has been able to help construct something positive and human in a manner firmly rooted within social work values with a sense of shared purpose and a desire to address the very real power imbalances that come to the fore in this often misunderstood and ignored area of mental health work.

"For Rob, the impacts have been significant. There is a clear increase in his confidence. There has also been the validation and recognition that his dedication to, and belief in, the work has been well placed. That the work is gaining national interest already is also very promising not just locally but what this approach could achieve if explored elsewhere.

"Rob has consistently advocated for the service user’s voice throughout his career. The ‘conversations’ project came about through a series of planning meeting with EbyE that Rob initiated and facilitated. Time was spent for key players to get to know each other and gain an understanding of what each wanted to achieve, a shared vision was created, potential difficulties around the subject were acknowledged and safeguards built into the sessions and, importantly, Rob made sure that funding was secured to ensure that those who part were remunerated for their experience and time.

"There have been very few, if any, projects of this type that have sought to create a space for those made subject to the Mental Health Act and those who have detained them. As each of the sessions unfolds with the various AMHP teams across the county, not only is the experience of taking part important in its own right, but some very real learning points are coming to the fore and will form the basis of further co-produced service development. Rob’s passion and commitment to the project has been nothing short of exceptional and the project unique.

Rob comments: "I am honoured to have been nominated and shortlisted for this award for Creative and Innovative Social Work Practice. The project that led to the nomination, ‘Conversations across the Divide’, has genuinely been a pleasure to develop, and I am happy to take some of the credit for it!

“However, it could not have got off the ground without the energy, ideas and courage of The Bridge Collective and their Experts by Experience group. I hope the attention that the project is receiving helps to underline the importance of meaningful co-production in mental health work with service-user/survivor and carer groups and organisations, which in turn need to be properly supported and funded. Organisations like The Bridge Collective provide a vital safe space, inclusive community, and alternative support, all of which is increasingly important to people in the context of austerity and the enduring predominance of biomedical approaches in mainstream mental health services.

“I must also express my thanks to Robert Lewis (Daytime AMHP Service Manager), not only for taking the time to pen such a great nomination, but also for his instrumental role in creating a hugely supportive work environment and culture, in which there are all sorts of opportunities for staff to develop professionally and to contribute service development. Thank you!”

Rob will find out if he has won an award at an exclusive ceremony in London on Friday 30 November. The winners from each of the 16 categories will compete against each other to be named the ‘Overall Social Worker of the Year 2018’.

For more information about the Social Worker of the Year Awards please see