When we’re delivering training or webinars about Support Brokerage we often explain it using the analogy of a car and a journey.
The car represents a person’s life. The person is the driver of their own car. This represents the core principle of Support Brokerage, which is that the person is in the driving seat.
In other words, as Support Brokers- in all of our practice and interactions we are continuously revisiting the principle that the person we are working alongside is taking the lead in making decisions about their life- where they want to be going, what they want to be doing, how they want to be supported and who will be involved. This is a core principle of Self-Directed Support.
Now to continue with our analogy, all cars need fuel for the journey.
Some people need assistance with putting ‘fuel’ in their car. This is where the Support Broker can become involved. Support Brokers are multi-skilled individuals who come from a range of different backgrounds. They have knowledge and experience which they can bring to assist the person they work alongside. Support Brokers can be people with lived experience, people who have worked in the Social care sector, Health professionals, Housing professionals or Community/Third sector workers. The Support Broker brings their range of skills, experience and knowledge, and uses this to assist the person with adding ‘fuel’ into their car. The ‘fuel’ we see in the image is referencing a range of different ‘strengths-based’ approaches which a Support Broker can lean into as they are working alongside the person to assist them with achieving their objectives.
The term ‘Support Broker’ is neither a job title, nor a job description, because the tasks which a Support Broker carries out will vary with each person they work with. Remember that the person is in the driving seat, and they will determine the remit and involvement of the Support Broker.
Now that the fuel has been added to the car, it is ready for the journey.
Remember, the person is in the driving seat. Once they have fuel in their car, they may decide that they need no further assistance from the Support Broker and decide to continue the rest of their journey independently. However, they may require some support to plan their journey and/or navigate the various destinations. In the image below, you will see that there is a passenger in the rear seat of the car. This is the Support Broker, who is holding a map and calling out directions- all the time acknowledging that the person is still in the driving seat and they are in control of the journey. At any point, the person could ask their Support Broker passenger to get out of the car!
For some people, they may have multiple ‘passengers’ in their car- these may be close family members or friends & members of their local community who are very involved in the person’s life; alongside the Support Broker who is also a passenger. We sometimes refer to this (or formalise this arrangement) as a ‘circle of support’. The principle of ‘passengers’ and the person in the driving seat still applies.
The journey of Support Brokerage may include visiting one or more destinations which help to bring the person closer to achieving their objectives. These include the ‘keys to citizenship’ of: Life, Love, Help, Purpose, Money, Home and Freedom.
The Support Broker may be tasked with carrying out specific actions as part of this journey, which could include person-centred planning, support with navigating the social care or health assessment process, identifying resources which help to achieve the person’s objectives and developing a support plan. The range of tasks is broad and should not be defined as an exhaustive list.
As with any journey, the longer we spend in the car and in the driving seat; the more confident we become and the more skilled and experienced we become at driving the car. This is also true of the input of a Support Broker. As the person becomes more confident and skilled at advocating for themselves, knowing and understanding their rights and being able to take the lead in discussions about their own support, the Support Broker is able to step back with the aim of not being needed at all in the end. For some people, it may be that they will always need some element of involvement from their Support Broker, but this should never be assumed and should regularly be revisited as a conversation with the person about how they feel things are going and how confident they feel about doing things independently.
Imagineer offers a range of training & mentoring services to support the knowledge and practice development of practitioners; and also to help people to know and understand their rights. For further details, visit our website.
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Leaders and decision-makers within the health and social care sector generally grasp (and subscribe to) the concept of Personalisation and Self-Directed Support; but often feel ‘stuck’ in relation to the systems, structures and processes that they are required to work within.
Having a simple lens by which to review policy and practice could be a catalyst for real and lasting change.
Let’s explore this in a little more detail.
Independent Support Brokerage is an approach which strongly aligns with the theory of self-determination and was first developed by families of people with complex needs, called the Woodlands Parents’ Group in British Columbia, Canada in the 1970s.
When the person is in the driving seat of their own life, amazing things can happen; and solutions and opportunities can be discovered which were not even considered through the narrow lens of commissioned provider services and statutory provision from Health and Social Care. Elements of Support Brokerage exist in many different models and approaches, but authentic and truly Independent Support Brokerage is rooted in a wide range of Person-Centred Practice and Strengths-Based Approaches such as:
Some of the barriers and challenges presented by the current Health and Social Care system include:
Our experience as practitioners of Independent Support Brokerage has shown that many of these barriers and challenges can be overcome when the following conditions are present:
The mechanisms and legal structures enabling these conditions to be present already exist, and it is happening in small pockets around the UK.
So why isn’t it happening everywhere? There is a growing groundswell of momentum towards the radical transformation of the welfare state. The Health and Social Care sector forms one part of the puzzle. There are many refrains of ‘Coproduction’, ‘Personalisation’, ‘Strengths-Based Approaches’ and ‘community development’ being sung by different groups wanting to see change. If we gather our voices together collectively and sing as a choir; we could weave our harmonies together to create a symphony of citizenship, inclusion and equal rights for all.
Do you want to join the chorus?
Further reading: What does ‘good’ look like?
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