My contribution to the Social Care Experts' blog 15 July 2009
The success of personalisation depends on service users helping each other to escape dependency and move to independence
have often been enthused by exciting articles on personalisation,
butthere is seldom mention of the models of long-term support that
serviceusers need in order to take advantage. Yet disabled people, keen
tosupport their peers, have shown the effectiveness of centres
forindependent living in supporting less empowered service users to
takecontrol of their lives. I have built,
over 12 years, a staff team of disabled people working to help service
users to have choice and control over their lives and to participate
collectively. This team, Leonard Cheshire Disability service user
support, was honoured at the Community Care Excellence Network awards in
May. Here are some lessons.
As disabled people, we start with
an advantage: service users are willing to trust us. They see us as
empowered disabled people living and working in the community.
started as a three-year Lottery-funded training project for service
users, to enable them to become more assertive and able to participate.
The first courses were based on the social model of disability and the
principles of independent living. Soon, those who had attended the
training asked to meet again to boost their new feelings of empowerment.
employed disabled development workers to enable this; they were able to
help service users develop their own association and to support them in
effective participation – for example by inviting a senior manager to
their meetings to raise issues of concern.
identified that some others (mainly in residential services) were still
excluded. Three years later a further Lottery application enabled us to
employ 10 more disabled people as mentors; working one-to-one with
service users, identifying their goals and working towards them. Service
users were finally able to gain holistic support for their individual
and group empowerment.
Developing this process was neither easy
nor cheap – but for many service users, every small step towards
independent living is a giant leap. To be truly ready for the
opportunities that personalisation offers, hard-to-reach service users
need the continued support of their more-experienced peers. Only in this
way can they value living day-to-day with personal choice and control.
one service user wrote after completing her training course: “Every
time I see a cabbage it reminds me that I could still have been in the
cabbage patch myself, if I hadn’t been persuaded that there was a life
for me outside.”
Clare Evans is a disabled social worker who heads the service user support team at Leonard Cheshire Disability