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It’s #socialworkweek2022 and we wanted to take some time to acknowledge and reflect on our work alongside social workers over the past 12 years at Imagineer.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, we regularly took social work students on placement from 4 different educational institutions: Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds & Bradford College.

It was really interesting watching the journey in the thinking and understanding of the social work students. At the beginning of their placement, some students would struggle to understand how they would be able to meet their placement requirements because Imagineer was not carrying out statutory Care Act Assessments; but after completing the Support Brokerage training they would begin to understand how a knowledge of the legal frameworks and the Personalisation agenda enabled them to support the people they were working alongside in a far more flexible, creative and person-centred way; enabling people to have more choice and control and to self-direct their care and support arrangements as well as developing their social connections, skills and ability to self-advocate. Support Brokerage is about far more than social care.

One of the interesting things we learned was that there was quite a difference in the course content and social work training between each university. Each student undertook the Support Brokerage training, the Person Centred planning training and the Graphic Facilitation training offered by Imagineer, giving them a great grounding in Strengths-Based approaches.

During their placements with us, some students led on different projects such as mapping accessibility around the town centre; Supporting and enabling people to participate in Voting; and Equality training. All of the students had an opportunity to join in with the ‘Beat It’ project, which was a music project set up by and determined by some of the people accessing support from Imagineer- a result of listening and determining how people wanted to spend their time and develop their skills. The students began to appreciate that by spending time with people while they were doing things they loved and following their interests- they learned a lot more about the person and understood far more about what good support could look like. They began to see creative ways of building the right support around people which enabled them to thrive and experience authentic citizenship within their local communities.

One of the principles we instilled in our student social workers was about working together and alongside each other as allies- drawing on each others skills, knowledge and experiences to enable the best outcomes for the people we were supporting.

We have worked alongside many brilliant social workers as allies- supporting the people we work alongside to get to a better place in their lives. We want to thank all of the wonderful social workers who are finding creative, flexible and person-centred ways of supporting people to live good lives, receive good support and experience overall wellbeing; recognising that enabling people to be in the driving seat of their own lives as well as their own care and support arrangements is absolutely the right thing to do.

If you’re interested in what we do at Imagineer, visit our website or our Youtube channel where you’ll find lots of interesting and engaging content.

 

 

Say hello to the flexible shape of Self Directed Support

The majority of commissioning for Adult Health and Social Care is still focused on fixed and outdated service models which are determined and designed by profit-making service providers; squeezing individual and often complex needs into a broken system which is no longer fit for purpose. The result is that people experiencing a complex range of challenges in their lives often fall into a cycle of crisis, knee-jerk commissioning responses, placement breakdown, trauma and further crisis. Is the person being supported in the system complex? Or does the current system propagate complexities?

These linear commissioning processes are still the norm. Yet we all know the world of Health and Social Care changes quickly. Let’s say goodbye to traditional commissioning processes and embrace a more flexible and individualised approach. It’s called Self Directed Support.

A world that should no longer exist

Traditional commissioning for Adult Social Care and Health started at a time when the world of Health and Social Care was more stable and financially predictable than today. It made sense to those holding the budgets to have a model which used universal needs analysis of geographic areas (‘misery maps’) as a starting point, and then went to the Provider market place to seek solutions for meeting those needs. Provider organisations jumped to attention. Commissioning budgets quickly got tied up in framework and block contract arrangements agreed via European tendering processes and costly procurement systems which were designated by service label, and need. Lots of ‘specialist’ provider services sprung up- ranging from small Learning Disability homes to private Mental Health ‘Assessment and Treatment’ facilities and blocks of flats for people with Dementia. Lots of little ‘Care Ghettos’ were created around the UK.

There was profit to be made. It attracted the Venture Capitalists. Their cost and volume discounts stifled the small locally-based, community provider organisations, charities and social good organisations (who existed to help people to live well, learn to self-advocate and uphold their rights, enjoy citizenship in their local communities and experience a good life). The Health and Social Care market became a place for the giant corporates. The individual receiving support was forgotten- buried under the swathes of corporate governance, regulation and cost efficiency measures.

Because of this system the very need for Self-Advocacy exists, and we see an ongoing advance of legal challenges such as Judicial Reviews for people within the system who are fighting for their rights.

But this model of commissioning and market-shaping is outdated and provides a perfect breeding ground for the deprivation and abuse of human rights of the very people it should be there to protect and serve. Ultimately, it is costly, damaging and just plain wrong.


Flexible commissioning and flexible budgets

Instead of a narrow linear path to services, support by hours and tasks; we argue for flexible budgets—based on genuine person-centred and strengths-based assessment. Rooted in the intrinsic motivation and aspirations of the person and reflecting the need for flexibility which comes with the very natural and human process of changing & evolving interests, changing needs and ageing; and we argue to support the development of community connections and cohesion. Effectively the same level of connection, choice, control and flexibility which other citizens are able to access and enjoy when they are not reliant on statutory funding and provision to lead a normal life.

We argue for a recognition that Support Plans which are designed primarily around the person’s strengths, passions and motivations; rather than need, deficits and risks are more likely to achieve outcomes long-term, keep the person safe and ultimately reduce their dependency on the public purse or the repeated cycles of crisis which result in the need for high-cost emergency interventions.

We argue for more flexibility and less standardisation. For more variety and opportunity to use budgets more flexibly in order to build good personalised support which is tailored to the individual, and fewer blue-printed service models from large provider organisations. (Who wants to live in a care ghetto??) We argue for people to hold and control their own budgets, with good support to manage them if needed. We argue for ordinary homes in ordinary neighbourhoods. Good support. More courage, kindness and respect for human rights. More value for people as citizens and fellow humans. More focus on the strength and opportunity of connected communities, neighbourhoods and localities as the starting place for finding solutions. We argue for local democracy and decision-making power for communities to develop and build what makes sense for them on a local level, rather than what is determined by decision-makers who live far away, hold the purse strings and don’t have any understanding or experience of what it is like to live in those communities.

We’re thinking of the brave ones out there who challenge the current system and embrace new ways of working and stewarding the public purse. We’re thinking about a world where everyone matters and everyone has a voice.

The future of commissioning

(Based on an image concept by @waitbutwhy)

We have a way forward

It’s called Self Directed Support. It’s actually been around for years. It’s embedded within current Health and Social Care legislation. It’s a right in law (Care Act 2014) for people to have it. Self Directed Support is where the person entitled to receive support is given clear information about their options, and a choice to use the financial resource allocated for their support (by their Local Authority and/or CCG) in a flexible way which makes most sense for them. Effectively, the person can design their own support plan. So why is it not the obvious first option?

It’s because we are still stuck with the old traditional systems for commissioning and contracting for support. We have very expensive Local Authority & Health departments and systems which are inefficient and not fit for purpose. We spend a lot of time and money on trouble-shooting poor commissioning and support arrangements which have not met people’s needs and have triggered the cycle of crisis. We have a pool of social workers entrenched in a focus on crisis intervention and budget cuts. There is no room for proactive or preventative approaches. Everybody is fire-fighting.

Let’s stop trying to re-invent a buckled wheel, calling it by a different name and expecting it to change things. Let’s be radically different.

Where are the some of the good solutions happening already?

Self Directed Support makes absolute sense- it connects naturally to all of these Strengths-based approaches. Let’s learn how to make life work well for everyone.

For more information about Self Directed Support, visit our website: www.imagineer.org.uk

To keep up to date with Imagineer & Support Brokerage Network, sign up for our mailing list.

People with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions face many barriers in accessing the right support to get the best quality of life and to achieve the outcomes that matter most to them. This is the case not just for health and hospice care — including the delays in referral to hospices and palliative care services and the hesitancy of people and families in accessing these services — but in terms of accessing equipment, psychological and social support, peer support groups, understanding financial entitlements, and other activities and support sources that exist in their community.

Understanding the context

Support Brokerage has a very clear ‘person focus’, doing what needs to be done to support people to get to where they want to be in life. Support Brokers work alongside people who are experiencing complicated or challenging life circumstances. They act as independent facilitators, supporting people to plan to live the life of their choice- working directly for the person and supporting them to stay in control, to understand and explore a whole range of opportunities and to confidently take action to achieve their desired outcomes.

The ultimate aim of Support Brokerage is to see people taking full control of their own lives.
We know that people with life-limiting conditions don’t have time to waste; every moment counts in your life, as you live with a limited lifespan. You want to focus on living well, doing things that you enjoy, making memories, spending quality time with those you love, and to achieve that, having good symptom control, the support of services that treat you as a unique individual, accessing benefits, homecare and other entitlements, and all your professionals working together, communicating effectively and sharing information to reduce the burden of health- and care-related admin.
You may have very little time to come to terms with your situation and so you may suddenly be thrust into a new world, a world that speaks a foreign language and seems far too clunky and complicated when you just want to receive the things you need, see the people you need to see and get on with living.

You become a “patient” and your family members instantly become “carers”. This can be tremendously traumatic, on top of the trauma of the illness and its effects on your health, body, abilities, appearance and identity.

Developing an understanding of what people need, in order to take control of
their own care & support arrangements

Liz Leach (Imagineer Development UK CIC), and Lucy Watts (Lucy Watts Ltd and Lived Experience Learning Ltd) are hosting a webinar on 15th September 2021 (10.30am-12pm) to discuss what gaps exist in the support of people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions and their families.

We want to explore with people what the gaps are that exist, what difficulties they face, and for us to then see how Support Brokerage can bridge these gaps and provide additional support to get the best quality of life, the necessary care and achieve the desired goals
and outcomes for people facing these conditions.

We want to understand from people with such conditions and family members what can be done to improve their lives and experiences. The webinar will be an opportunity to explore what Support Brokerage is and how it can help people; as well as provide a space for feedback and discussion to gather people’s lived experiences- mapping out what works, what doesn’t and where improvements can be made — and what additional support is needed to achieve these improvements.

Who is this webinar for?

About the hosts:

Liz is an experienced Support Broker and the Founding Director of Imagineer, with a long history of work in Health and Social care- particularly Self-directed Support and Person-Centred approaches.

Lucy is a Support Broker, Independent Advocate, Consultant and Facilitator who lives with a life-limiting condition, extremely complex medical needs, and accesses hospice and palliative care services.

Next steps:

Meet Angie- an OT with a passion for Person Centred approaches!

Meet Angie….she’s been an Occupational Therapist (OT) for 30 years, working in NHS and (more recently), independent OT roles to support people with developing and maintaining their independence and well-being.

Angie Carter is a registered Occupational Therapist; and also an Accredited Support Broker with the Support Brokerage Network

The introduction of Personalisation within the Health and Social Care sector made absolute sense for Angie and resonated with her value base and skill set as an Occupational Therapist.

Angie’s journey of discovery led her to Support Brokerage

Angie began to explore ways of helping people to take control of their own lives within her work as an OT; and her exploration led her to reading about the concept of Independent Support Brokerage. She began to recognise that her formal OT approach fitted more with the ‘Professional Gift model’, than the ‘Citizenship model’ (which was the approach followed within Independent Support Brokerage). Angie completed her training with Imagineer as an Independent Support Broker, and she joined the Support Brokerage Network (formerly known as National Brokerage Network), which is a community of practice for Independent Support Brokers and organisations who implement the values and approaches of Independent Support Brokerage within their work.

“….here were people doing things that my OT profession has also been trying to do for years. But these people weren’t OT’s;  they were just listening and putting people at the centre of their own lives. Here I learned not to be precious about my profession. I was humbled by the skills of those around me and inspired by the passion of everyone present”….

 

Angie is now part of the Support Brokerage Network, and has written a detailed article about her own individual journey in becoming a Support Broker; in particular- the story of one young man whom she has worked alongside to Self Direct his own support. Angie now uses her professional skill set as an OT combined with the skills and approaches of Independent Support Brokerage to offer personalised, bespoke and enabling solutions and ideas for people to lead their lives in a way that truly makes sense for them:

“Having a life plan that was now owned by this young man….. provided everyone involved including social workers, health professionals and all his Provider services with one single focus – how he wanted his life to be, the challenges that needed to be overcome and knowledge about what worked well.”

You can read Angie’s full article here.

You can view Angie’s Support Broker profile here.

You can read more about Support Brokerage here.

If you’re interested in the work of Imagineer; and would like more information about what we do and how to get involved, you can sign up for our mailing list & monthly newsletter here.

The background of the National Brokerage Network

The National Brokerage Network was formed in 2003 as a response to the development of ‘Community Care (Direct Payments) Act’ in 1996. There was a will and an intention from a group of practitioners in the field of Health and Social Care across the UK to really transform and personalise the way people could experience and direct their own care & support arrangements. The name ‘National Brokerage Network’ (NBN) was adopted as a way of describing this group of forward-thinking practitioners.

‘Putting People First’ was a governmental concordat published in 2007- introducing personal budgets for the first time and helping to transform adult social care for the better.

The NBN became active in introducing the approach of Support Brokerage as a mechanism for helping people to Self-Direct their own support- offering training for people to become Independent Support Brokers, and regular mentoring sessions and meetings to further and develop the approach. A core group of members formed around the UK- many of the original members moved away to focus on other areas of development and consultancy work in Health and Social Care; and new members joined with a fresh interest in furthering the approach of Self Directed Support.

Bringing the National Brokerage Network into Imagineer

For a number of years, the National Brokerage Network existed as a separate legal entity in its own right (incorporated as Support Brokerage Network CIC in 2010, with a board of Directors) securing some initial grant funding to develop its work; but did not ever carry out any income-generating activity to become a self-sustaining organisation in its own right.

In March 2019, the board of Directors voted to dissolve the legal entity which held the NBN, and the new Chair person of the Network (Liz Leach Murphy) volunteered to continue running the Network as a sub-committee of Imagineer Development UK CIC, which is an active & thriving social enterprise. This was taken to a vote, and the board agreed unanimously that this was the best option to ensure the continued operation of the Network.

Since 2019 Imagineer has continued to operate and administer the activities of the National Brokerage Network, and we have seen significant growth and increase in its activity as a result.

Introducing a new (but familiar) name for the Network

Imagineer as a whole has been undertaking some significant changes in the past year to the website and social media presence, branding and operating activities which have been triggered in part by the Covid-19 Pandemic. One of these key changes is that the National Brokerage Network (NBN) is being re-branded and will now be known as ‘Support Brokerage Network’ or ‘SBN’.

Here is our new logo- we hope that the new name will enable people to find us more easily, and is a better description of what we do. We have kept some familiar elements of the old logo for continuity.

 

 

The Support Brokerage Network  (SBN) is a way of bringing Support Brokers and Self-Directed Support practitioners together to develop their knowledge, share best practice and learn from one another.

We’re very excited to be getting involved in some international work further afield- this fits with our wider social mission and purpose as a Community Interest Company, and it is also reflected in the name change, which no longer has the work ‘National’ in it. One of our most recent international connections is working with the Jeder Institute in Australia! We are also part of Citizen Network, who are leading on Self Directed Support initiatives in Europe, and beyond. We were very aware that ‘National’ could have limiting connotations for many esteemed colleagues who we were keen to partner with, and felt that we wanted to open up people’s perception of what the Network was about.

Changing the way we describe the National Brokerage Network is part of the reason for renaming it, because we don’t want to limit our reach, and we know that we have a lot to learn from the innovation happening within Self Directed Support in other countries.

If you are involved in any innovation or new developments relating to Self Directed Support, we’d love to hear from you!

We have been working on increasing our reach and growing the membership of the Network- partly to support the ongoing professional development of Independent Support Brokers but also to increase the opportunities to work with new people and organisations committed to the advancement of Self Directed Support and Personalisation.

Membership of the Network offers some of the following benefits:

✔ Work opportunities

✔ Mentoring

✔ Sharing best practice

✔Training & events

✔ Use of SBN logo

✔ Profile on SBN directory

✔ Free resources

Membership of the Support Brokerage Network (SBN) provides members with access to the membership area of our website where they can have access to a whole range of tools and resources to support people with Self Directing their own Support, Person-Centred Planning Approaches and Community Connecting. As an example of how some of the resources can be used; recently we have been working with James to start building a Person-Centred Plan. James is working towards moving into his own home with a team of staff supporting him. He has very clear ideas about what he wants his support to be like, and some brilliant goals for what he wants to do with his life.

To support James to express himself, we used the following tools (from the resources in the membership area of the website) with him to capture his views and ideas:

✓ Working/ Not working

✓ Getting in the way!

✓ Good support for me

✓ Dreams

James used these tools to support conversations with his social worker where they began to develop his plan together. Using the tools enabled James to bring power to his words!

SBN membership is currently free until April 2022. Why not sign up as an individual or organisation to gain access to our brilliant resources?

Over the past year, we have trained over 100 new people to be Independent Support Brokers. Once somebody has completed their training and accreditation, we encourage them to join the Support Brokerage Network and register with us to stay connected into the community of practice. Once somebody has received their accreditation from Support Brokerage training, they can be registered on our Support Broker Directory.

As the Network grows, so does the demand for Support Brokers; and we are receiving more and more referrals into the Network from people seeking Support Brokerage.

We are now able to share referrals for new work with Brokers who are registered with the Support Brokerage Network on the directory. Please get in touch with us if you would like further information about this: info@imagineer.org.uk

We’re very excited to see the Network grow, and we hope the rebrand will open the way for some exciting new connections and conversations!

Team Imagineer

In acknowledgement of Deaf Awareness Week 2021; we wanted to share the story of a lady called Emma who is registered as Deaf, that we’ve worked alongside to provide Support Brokerage with.

How we work with Emma

Emma is registered as Deaf; and she uses British Sign Language and an Alternative & Augmentative Communication (AAC) Device to communicate. We have been working alongside her, enabling her to Self-Direct her own support, using Support Brokerage approaches. To make sure that Emma is in the driving seat for planning and designing her support, we worked out the best way to communicate to organise meetings; which included times, places and who to invite. Emma communicated about this via email as she is able to access this independently and she can reply using the technology available to her.
When we meet in person, Emma has a BSL interpreter available to her which means that she can understand what has been shared or spoken about. To make sure the meeting and the discussion remains focused on and about her, we check any ideas and suggestions put forward with her and await her response or her decision before documenting anything.
We take paper and pens with us whenever we’re meeting with her so we can document ideas and information that will form her plan. This ensures that she can see what is being recorded and can make sure it is correct- we are continuously double-checking with her all the time.
We have also learned certain communication through body language and gestures so that we can develop a mutual understanding without fully relying on the spoken word. All of these approaches have been agreed and developed with Emma as her preferred way of working and communicating with us.

How does Support Brokerage work with Deaf people, and those with hearing impairments?

Support Brokerage can be used as a range of approaches to enable people in a very individual and personalised way to take control and remain in the driving seat with making plans for their own care and support.
At Imagineer, we work alongside many different people who approach us with their individual support requirements; and we tailor our approach to them, according to what their preference for our involvement is:
-Tailored communication support
-Visual information gathering and planning techniques
-Flexible arrangements around meetings
-Involvement of Family, Friends and/or Circle of Support

If you would like to know more about Support Brokerage, please visit our website.

 

At Imagineer, our day-to-day team consists of the three of us: Liz, Mollie & Sarah.

Imagineer team image- Mollie-Liz-Sarah

Although we didn’t deliberately set out to be a female-only team (as we do have male board members, and have had male staff working in the organisation previously); we have landed here for now, and we are a formidable trio!

We wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate our little team on International Women’s Day 2021, and also to recognise and honour some wonderful women who have influenced us and continue having an impact on our work.

Imagineer started 12 years ago with Liz, who was heavily impacted by the work of many other female visionaries working for a better world- one where everyone could be equal, recognised first and foremost as citizens with gifts and skills, rights and responsibilities. Liz’s early work in person-centred planning shaped the future direction and vision of Imagineer.

Mollie and Sarah joined the team at later points (both inspired by Liz’s work)- Mollie bringing her wonderful graphic skills, and Sarah bringing her writing skills as well as many years of collective experience in the Health and Social Care sector.

Much of the work which influenced the development of Imagineer and Independent Support Brokerage in the UK came from women such as Beth Mount, who wrote many wonderful books and developed beautiful person-centred planning approaches using creative and visual techniques. One of the approaches she is well known for is the creation of beautiful quilts which help to tell a person’s story. You can read more about Beth Mount’s work and the different resources she has developed here.

Beth Mount

                                                                                                 Beth Mount: Photo Credit to www.bethmount.org

Another key influencer of our work was the wonderful Judith Snow, who was an advocate for inclusion and one of the early pioneers of Individual Budgets and Circles of Support. You can read more about Judith’s life and work here.

 

Judith Snow2

                                                                                                      Judith Snow: Photo Credit to www.inclusion.com

Connie Lyle O’Brien (and her husband John) have taken a lead in thinking and creating new ways of relating to and supporting disabled people over the past 40 years, on a global basis. In addition to developing many of the person-centred planning systems used internationally, training thousands of facilitators and health & social care workers; they have also been authors of numerous inspirational publications and resources.

Connie Lyle O'Brien

                                                                                             Connie Lyle O’Brien: Photo Credit www.inclusion.com

Marsha Forest (& her husband Jack Pearpoint) founded the Centre for Integrated Education and Inclusion Press International. Marsha Forest was a remarkable leader, advocate and champion of inclusion for all.

Marsha Forest

                                                                                                  Marsha Forest: Photo Credit www.inclusion.com

Finally, we couldn’t let this day pass without honouring and remembering our wonderful Beth Fields who was part of our team for a number of years and who is sadly no longer with us. Beth worked hard to develop and grow our ‘Beat It’ music project which started a number of years ago as a result of the people we worked alongside expressing an interest in (and a love for) music. The people who Beth worked alongside and the musicians she supported are continuing to use their gifts and skills to bring music, life, energy and fun to the world- this is an enduring legacy which will continue to have an impact in the lives of people and communities she was involved with.

One of our core team values at Imagineer is fun, and we highly value every element of our work (past and present) which enables us to continue holding this as a value. The featured photo is a screenshot of our 2020 (lockdown) Christmas party, which we had over zoom. We had takeaway & wine, played silly games together and exchanged gifts. Mollie had made beautiful personalised hand-designed team mugs for each of the three us, which you can see in the picture!

Women over the years have been responsible for many breakthroughs in societal values, equality and inclusion. They have tirelessly promoted well-being and welfare for those who often don’t have a voice. We have much to thank women for and celebrate; and we continue to honour their legacy by building on it with our own work. Today, we want to celebrate, recognise and value all of the wonderful women we are connected with through partnering in shared vision, values and activities which help to make the world a better place. There are too many of you to mention; but we see you and we are grateful for you.

We’d love to hear about women who have influenced you and your work in relation to Health and Social Care, Community Development, Well-being and Welfare. Please do get in touch with us to share your thoughts with us at info@imagineer.org.uk

Online conference event

Yesterday (16th Feb 2021), we had the privilege of attending and sharing about our work at ‘It’s our community’ online conference, hosted by Citizen Network.

We wanted to share a short summary of the event, and encourage you to visit the YouTube channel to watch the event if you haven’t already done so.

Here’s the timetable of speakers:

Speaker list

Click here to watch the full conference or any of the individual talks.

The speakers

We heard from a diverse range of speakers all bringing their perspectives about citizenship, life in the community and how social care impacts their lives- both the good and the bad experiences. Many of the stories we heard were raw and painful. They illustrated the struggle so many individuals and families go through in order to get good support, and the vilification of those people in society who experience some of the greatest challenges.

We heard from professionals working within (and external to) the statutory systems which underpin our current social care system; and we heard some great examples of innovation, creative use of resources and stories of people and communities really being able to find their own solutions which could be cost-effective and enduring.

Liz shared how 12 years of delivering Support Brokerage to people and families had demonstrated that things could be done differently and really effectively- using resources creatively, flexibly and often at a much lower cost- by placing the resources and the control in the hands of the people and communities who needed them. The solutions to people’s needs often reside within the communities where they live. The current system is based very much on the medical model and the professional gift model- focusing on need, risk, deficit and diagnostic labels. The resources we need are already there, but need to be realigned and used in a way which makes sense to the people who need them. Our social care system is still struggling with the concept of relinquishing power and control into the hands of the people who use it. We need a radical reform of social care, where there is no charge for care to the citizen. Access to care and support should be a universal right. (2:10:50 into the conference, if you wish to listen specifically to Liz)

What we learned

The summing up of the event was shared wonderfully and articulately by Simon Duffy (Centre for Welfare Reform) commenting in response to Shadow Social Care Minister- Liz Kendall; that we need to think about what the basis of a long-term new vision for social care is. What we’ve seen for three decades is a drift- that the consensus building process has failed to bring about the changes we’ve been talking about for the last few hours (during the conference). This conference was framed as a progressive vision for social care. We first need to create a coherent attractive vision that ordinary people want. That work needs to be done by working together, particularly disabled people in the community, & civil society. Nobody is making firm commitments beyond platitudes to say this is the model we want and this is how we will fund it. It needs to be properly funded for it to happen.

The vision is not hard, but it does require real work. We can evidence this by working together, and there’s a lot we can do ourselves. The other things we ultimately need national politicians to do will be easier if we can lead the way. Let’s reinvent social care.

Citizen Network will be publishing all of the films and a report following the conference.

What do we mean, when we talk about ‘Community’?

The word ‘community’ can mean different things to different people. We can talk about community as a group of people with a shared interest or set of beliefs such as a sports club or a faith community. We can describe community as a geographic area in which people live, work and socialise. We can also use the word ‘community’ to describe a people group with a common ethnic or diversity label, a common ideology or political leaning.

For the purposes of this blog, we’re going to think of ‘community’ in three different layers:

  1. Individual level: A citizen living within their local neighbourhood and with a network of place-based and relational connections unique and specific to that person (“My Community”)
  2. Neighbourhood level: A larger group of people sharing a common geographic base, relational connections, facilities, resources and spaces; with a shared sense of ownership which is connected to that hyper-local geographic area (“Our community”)
  3. Society level: A population based on the more complex systems and values embedded within law and citizen life. (“THE community”)

Bumping Spaces- the places where community happens

Geographic communities (or neighbourhoods) are made up of a series of ‘bumping spaces’ where people congregate regularly on certain days or times of the week; and for certain events or activities. Bumping Spaces are unique to each individual community and are often the beating heart of where relational connections take place. These may be formal spaces such as community centres, libraries or GP surgeries. They may be hospitality-based spaces such as cafes, coffee shops or pubs, or they may be informal bumping spaces which take place around a particular community activity. Have you ever taken a moment to consider where the primary ‘bumping spaces’ are in your own neighbourhood? Sometimes it is surprising to discover where people congregate and where those relational connections are occurring. For example- if you ever walk past a primary school at the beginning or the end of the school day, you are likely to see a group of parents congregating- chatting, sharing stories, laughing together, commiserating each other over a poor nights sleep, and taking their children to the park to play together after school. If you ever walk in a park or countryside area, you are likely to pass many dog-walkers who stop and chat to each other, whilst their dogs play together. If you walk down a nearby canal towpath or riverbank you are likely to see barge-dwellers, boat owners and local fishermen who pass the time of day together. Community develops where natural connections occur.

How does Independent Support Brokerage assist with Community development?

In the practice of Independent Support Brokerage we often have conversations with people who are isolated and may have only paid workers and professionals in their lives. They don’t often use the phrase ‘My community’ because they don’t recognise or feel a sense of belonging to a particular community. One of the key ingredients in developing independence, resilience and wellbeing is community. Whilst we can’t prescribe community for people as such; we can provide assistance and ‘scaffolding’ to enable people to begin to develop their own natural connections and relationships- based on accessibility, interest, availability and encouragement. Often, people are held back from developing these connections, because they hold limiting beliefs about what is possible, whether they will be able to access anything, whether anybody will be interested in getting to know them, and how much things might cost.

The functions of Support Brokerage open up the conversation with the person by first understanding the essence of them- what makes them tick, what they’re passionate about, what’s important to them. What really brings them to life, what makes them smile and what they’re really good at. These early ‘discovery’ conversations  provide the seeds for discovering opportunities (often at the ‘neighbourhood’ level)- for thinking about what might be possible and how we might go about achieving it. That’s the starting point for helping people to connect to their community.

The fuel for driving these types of conversations is resourcefulness.

People who access social care or health funding for their care & support needs are often restricted to a blinkered ‘service’ based view of what is possible. Often their understanding of a good life and good support is limited to a narrow understanding of ‘time and task’ based support- such as domiciliary care visits for Personal Care or meal preparation; or perhaps attending a designated day service or activity group for people with a similar diagnosis or disability. The Care Act actually intended the conversation to move away from traditional service-based solutions, and to actually start with the person and their ‘assets’ (their home, their relationship connections, their skills and other resources available to the person- in other words, the things which are ‘strong’ and available in a person’s life); in order to develop a plan which really supports the person to have a good life, and promotes and upholds their wellbeing- helping them to be really integrated into their local community and part of the diverse group of citizens who reside there. Most of the solutions to having a ‘good life’ reside within Communities in the first place.

Find out more

About us:

Liz Leach Murphy is the Founder of Imagineer Development UK CIC, Chair of the National Brokerage Network and a Freelance Consultant working on personalisation within the Health and Social Care sector/community space.

Liz Leach-Murphy Founder of Imagineer Development CiC

Sarah Holmes is a Freelance Consultant working on personalisation within the Health and Social Care sector/community space; and a Director of Imagineer Development UK CIC

Both Liz and Sarah are practitioners, trainers and coaches in Independent Support Brokerage and consultancy for Strengths-Based Approaches with collectively over 40 years of experience in the Health and Social care and community sectors.

Imagineer Development UK CIC is a social enterprise based in the North of England with a national reach; originally set up as a test bed for Independent Support Brokerage in the UK. Imagineer is the hosting organisation for the National Brokerage Network, which is a community of practice for Independent Support Brokers. Imagineer provides a range of training & consultancy services in Support Brokerage, Person-Centred and Strengths-Based Approaches.

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National Brokerage Network

Do you know what your rights are under Care Act 2014?

In the practice of Independent Support Brokerage we often have conversations with people who are accessing social care support for the first time and discover that they don’t have any awareness of their rights under the Care Act.

This can make the whole process of navigating a social care assessment very tricky. How do you know what to say if you don’t know what your rights are?

The emphasis of the Care Act is on well-being and the ‘well-being principles’. It is supposed to be a ‘whole life’ or ‘holistic’ process, but often the social care practitioner carrying out the Care Act assessment focuses solely on the narrow view of individual  ‘outcomes’ rather than the overarching well-being principles; meaning that they may not focus on the correct areas of life where the person needs most support.

It can often mean that the focus is taken completely away from the factors of a person’s life which determine their well-being, and therefore resources or services provided by Adult Social Care to meet that perceived need are just not a good fit for the individual.

It’s a little bit like talking to a mechanic about the problem with your car, then at the end of the conversation finding out that the mechanic knows all about motorbikes but not much about cars at all.

The well-being principles

So let’s look at the well-being principles first:

These are the principles (enshrined within law) which are recognised as the determinants of well-being, in relation to Social Care eligibility.

Care Act eligibility

When a person requests (or is offered) a Care Act assessment, their eligibility for support is determined by the following criteria:

Care Act outcomes

The ‘outcomes’ specified under the Care Act are:

Your rights

Anybody can ask for a Care Act assessment, and they should not be told that they are not eligible for support under the Care Act unless an assessment has taken place. In some areas of the UK we have seen ‘screening’ assessments being used by some Local Authorities as a way of filtering people out for assessment, but this is not within the guidance (or the spirit) of the Care Act. We have also heard from people we have worked alongside, where they have had a telephone conversation with a social care practitioner (such as a social worker) without any awareness that an assessment was being carried out, and have later discovered that their assessment took place over the phone. Most people would be unaware that they can challenge this.

There is little information shared within the public domain, and in accessible language- which explains people’s rights simply and helps them to navigate the assessment and support planning process. For example- most people would be unaware of their right to lead on conducting their own assessment (should they wish to) and to gather and share the information which goes into the assessment themselves. Could this be due to suspicion from Local Authority officers that people may abuse the system or manipulate information in order to secure support? Or is it due to Social Care departments being so stretched that they are being forced to adjust their practices around assessment and support planning to ensure minimal admin burden and lower uptake of resources?

Again- many people are not aware that they have a right to request a copy of their completed Care Act assessment and to request amendments to any of the information that is inaccurate (or missing) from it. There is often a delayed response when such a request is made; or when the assessment is shared with the person it is clear that there has been poor evidence capture and complete lack of detail- often by a practitioner who has not spent any meaningful time with the person they are assessing in order to understand their individual circumstances thoroughly. Could this be due to overstretched caseload and lack of capacity with social workers? Is this impacted by the person being uncomfortable disclosing personal information and details about their individual circumstances to a complete stranger? Could this be due to poor assessment skills, or a deliberate way of managing a very stretched resource?

Finally- at the conclusion of the assessment process, if the person has met the eligibility criteria there should be a clear discussion about the ways the person is entitled to receive support via a Personal Budget. Often, the person is only made aware of the option of a commissioned provider service (such as domiciliary or residential care) or a Direct Payment. Often people are talked out of the Direct Payment option by being told it will be stressful and burdensome to manage. Practitioners carrying out the assessment may not have the full complement of knowledge, insight & skill to help the person navigate their entitlement to support in the way which makes most sense for them individually.

Find out more

In our next few blog posts, we will be expanding on this area of thinking further. If reading this blog post has made you question your own level of knowledge and understanding in relation to the Care Act and people’s rights, you may be interested in joining our Quick Bite for Lunch webinar series on  ‘Rights’ which is starting on Weds 20th January 2021 at 12.30pm.

We’ll be exploring the whole area of ‘rights’ in relation to Social Care and Health assessment- sharing our professional  experience of supporting many people through the Care Act assessment and Support Planning process in different Local Authority areas across England over the past 10 years.

There will be an opportunity for participants to share their personal experiences and ask questions too.

Visit our ‘webinars’ page for more information or email us: info@imagineer.org.uk to request a booking form.

About us:

Liz Leach Murphy is the Founder of Imagineer Development UK CIC, Chair of the National Brokerage Network and a Freelance Consultant working on personalisation within the Health and Social Care sector/community space.

Liz Leach-Murphy Founder of Imagineer Development CiC

Sarah Holmes is a Freelance Consultant working on personalisation within the Health and Social Care sector/community space; and a Director of Imagineer Development UK CIC

Both Liz and Sarah are practitioners, trainers and coaches in Independent Support Brokerage and consultancy for Strengths-Based Approaches with collectively over 40 years of experience in the Health and Social care and community sectors.

Imagineer Development UK CIC is a social enterprise based in the North of England with a national reach; originally set up as a test bed for Independent Support Brokerage in the UK. Imagineer is the hosting organisation for the National Brokerage Network, which is a community of practice for Independent Support Brokers. Imagineer provides a range of training & consultancy services in Support Brokerage, Person-Centred and Strengths-Based Approaches.

Follow us on twitter

Find us on Facebook

Find us on LinkedIn

 

National Brokerage Network

What a year!!

Here’s our year in review. Looking back over 2020 it is easy to be drawn into endless conversations and reflections about the Global Covid-19 pandemic- how it has changed life and society. Whilst it has had a significant impact and influence on our work at Imagineer and the National Brokerage Network this year, it’s also important to step back and review our year from the wider perspective. At the beginning of the year, Imagineer was functioning as a locally-based organisation in West Yorkshire, delivering support brokerage and brokerage management (mainly on a local level); and our training offer mainly focused on the delivery of support brokerage training and person-centred approaches which was delivered in person as classroom-based training.

2020 year in review

Before the pandemic….

We started the year by being added to the Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) directory of innovations in community-centred support, for our work on Support Brokerage and Self Directed Support. We became involved in the Social Care Innovation Network and were invited to participate in the Action Learning Set for Self Directed Support. We attended a number of sessions in London for the Action Learning Set and helped to develop the SCIN toolkit for providers and commissioners. The last session we attended was in March just before the first national lockdown started. Elsewhere, we had begun to have some exciting conversations about innovative projects, partnership working with like-minded organisations and new consultancy work. We had 2 social work students on placement with us alongside the Imagineer staff team. We were really excited to get stuck in.

When lockdown began…

With the national lockdown in full force at the end of March, we knew that we needed to make some decisions to ensure the continued stability of Imagineer and the National Brokerage Network. All of our activity was moved online, via zoom platform. We began experimenting with and developing new ways to connect with people, provide support and deliver training and consultancy. We developed and shared a ‘support your street’ pack for people who wanted to offer help and support to their neighbours during lockdown. We set up and ran weekly ‘brew crew’ online coffee morning sessions as a way to keep some of the people we work alongside connected and socially engaged. These sessions proved really popular, and the topics and activities for each week’s session were planned by the people who attended.

Doing things differently, and working in partnership

Alongside the need to change the way we were working due to the global situation; we had been developing our business plan to shape the future direction of Imagineer and National Brokerage Network. The business plan took a different direction as we realised that the need to deliver our work online was likely to be a long-term change rather than a temporary response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We worked alongside Andy Peers to develop our plan, and brought in a number of other partners along the way to help us achieve our objectives. Pivotal have helped us with the development of our website and e-learning platform, Yolk Marketing have been helping us to develop our marketing plan and Pat Bannon has been instrumental in helping us to develop new film content to showcase our work. We developed our digital and technical skills, widening our use of software applications and digital technology to enhance our work online. We were also very happy when Alan Hiscutt accepted our invitation to join our board of Directors as Chairperson earlier in the year, and also Aarron Cammiss who has joined us as a Board advisor. The board of Directors have been focused on steering Imagineer & NBN through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuring we have a stable foundation for us to continue our work into 2021, and beyond. We are very grateful for their wisdom and experience. The input, support and resources provided by all of our partners this year have been so significant in our journey and we would like to thank each one of you who has been involved in the process.

The re-development of the website afforded us the opportunity to review the way the National Brokerage Network was structured, including our membership structure. We have been very busy re-developing the ‘find a support broker’ function on the website and building the organisation directory for our partner organisations. We look forward to seeing the NBN membership growing in 2021 as more people complete their Support broker training and accreditation.

Liz and Sarah began to develop online training content, webinar topics and thought leadership work- leaning into our connections with Citizen Network, Centre for Welfare Reform and other partnership organisations. We dedicated time to develop our networks, connections and relationships to build on our knowledge of what is happening in the health and social care sector; and in the wider conversations about citizenship, communities and welfare. We also embarked on some new project-based work which was enabled via grant funding from The Longleigh Foundation, Imagineer Foundation (Supported by Peoples Postcode Lottery), Calderdale Community Foundation , Charities Aid Foundation, REACH fund, Awards for All and YOR4good. We are also grateful to Beware of the Bull for their support with grant funding applications. We hope to be able to share more about these projects in 2021 as we pick up pace again following the restrictions we have experienced in 2020, due to the pandemic. We’re extremely thankful for the grant funding we’ve received this year enabling us to develop our business model to online delivery and enable the future sustainability of Imagineer and National Brokerage Network.

In the background, Mollie has been working hard to develop our Graphic Facilitation services, online Graphic Facilitation Training and a graphic bank of images for our website, social media and training content; alongside producing some fabulous visual content for different projects we have been working on. Mollie’s unique and distinctive graphic style has become our ‘visual language’ as an organisation, and has brought really vibrant colour and depth to our work- we are very proud! Our favourite pieces of work this year have been where the three of us have collaborated together, bringing each of our skills in training delivery, facilitation, writing and graphicing to provide a dynamic, inspiring and creative experience for the people and organisations we have been working with; and to share our work with wider audiences. Each of us have also continued to work alongside people and families in delivering Independent Support Brokerage and Brokerage Management support in order to underpin our ongoing knowledge and experience as practitioners.

Developing our work and extending our reach

In June, we presented a webinar in association with Centre For Welfare Reform & Citizen Network, entitled ‘exploring the strength of community’; and a few months later, we published a detailed paper via CFWR to complement this.

Later on in November, we wrote and published a further paper entitled ‘what does good look like?’ documenting over 10 years of Support Brokerage delivery and sharing stories of what has worked well, through the eyes of people we have worked alongside. In November, we also began our first ‘quick bite for lunch’ webinar series– designed as short practical sessions which people could attend for 30 mins during their lunch break. We wanted to create an opportunity for networking, staying connected and sharing good practice and creative ideas. By this point in the year, people in our networks had been working from home for many months, and we recognised the importance and value of being able to connect with others informally as an opportunity to reflect and explore new ways of doing things. The sessions were great fun, and well attended. Each session, we would start with a short opening presentation on the topic, followed by time to share stories and ask questions- whilst eating lunch together! We also provided a tool or resource at the end of each session for people to take away and introduce in their work. Our first series focused on person-centred approaches. We will be continuing with these in the new year, and have already developed the content for the next few series! You might want to keep an eye on our webinars webpage for information about new ‘Deep Dive’ and ‘Thought leadership’ webinars we are developing for the new year too!

Towards the end of the year, we had begun receiving invitations to share the work of Imagineer & NBN into regional and national events relating to welfare reform, personalisation of health & social care, strengths-based approaches and community development. We have had some really encouraging and thought-provoking conversations about re-thinking systems and processes which have become ‘stuck’ and we’re really excited to see how these conversations will progress in 2021. Our heart is to see a growing movement of people and communities really in the position to determine how they can become stronger and more connected.

Looking back and celebrating how far we’ve come

In early December, we released our video ’10 years of Imagineer’ documenting our activity and achievements as an organisation over the past decade. The video was produced by Pat Bannon and we are very grateful for his support with helping us to create this brilliant record of our work so far.

By the end of this year, we will have delivered a total of 6 accredited support broker training courses and over 36 new people trained in Support Brokerage, many of whom have now become members of the National Brokerage Network. We have also delivered some bespoke training to organisations and we have begun engaging with a number of exciting community-based consultancy projects with 4 new organisational partners we are regularly delivering consultancy work and training with. We are also regularly providing mentoring to people practicing Support Brokerage.

Looking towards the future

Our 2021 diary is already looking very busy and we are so excited to see the impact of our work on the development of Self Directed Support and community-centred approaches in different areas around the UK and beyond.

We know that this year has been a difficult and challenging one for many people (ourselves included) and there have been many losses and sacrifices along the way, but we are so very thankful for the opportunities and development we have seen as an organisation this year. We’d like to acknowledge and thank those people who have travelled with us this year through various stages of the journey, including those who are now on their own different journey whilst we continue to pursue ours.  We’ve made some great new friends (as well as strengthening connections with old friends), collaborated on some brilliant projects and had some really exciting conversations about doing things differently. We remain firmly committed to our social mission “to facilitate an empowering society and culture that supports people to live their best lives” and this remains the benchmark for all of our work.

We wish you a peaceful Christmas season and we look forward to 2021 with hope and excitement for the opportunities, connections and partnerships ahead.

Team Imagineer- Liz, Sarah & Mollie

 

How can we understand the potential and momentum of meaningful connections?

We connect with the world around us via People, Places and Opportunities. People who receive Health and Social Care service-based support often have limited networks which mainly consist of paid workers, professionals who are in their life on the basis of their label or diagnosis, and limited friend/family involvement. The potential and momentum of people’s relationship connections can really begin to unlock opportunities; which do not reside within formal statutory or service-based provision.

A key aspect of Independent Support Brokerage is exploring people’s connections. Not only does this help us to establish who the important and significant people in a person’s life are; but we can begin to identify opportunities to build further connections through which relationship ‘chains’ can be created. This approach can provide a springboard into new networks, communities and opportunities, helping to reduce dependency on statutory provision which is often very costly and exists on the basis of a financial transaction rather than a relational connection.

Supporting people to identify and develop their connections can result in an enriching experience for all involved, and can help to develop community-based resilience over time.

People-based connections:

Who we know, and who they know!

Place-based connections:

Where we go and who we might bump into or develop a connection with when we’re there!

Opportunity-based connections:

What we’re interested in, which we might have in common with other people we could then form a connection with on the basis of shared interests, skills, passions, hobbies or beliefs.

 

Community treasure chest

One particular way we can support people to identify and develop connections is through using an approach called ‘community treasure chest’.

The focus of the approach is the principle that individuals within groups of friends/neighbours, a circle of support or small community-based grass-roots organisations all hold ‘treasure’ which can be gathered to share with the group; and this ‘treasure’ provides points of connection which enable them to achieve outcomes & objectives.

As individuals within the group, you each take turns to share information about people you know who may be useful for others to connect with; your passions, obsessions & interests; your skills, training and knowledge; and something you are interested in learning about or doing. By doing this, key information is gathered which can then inform action planning, support planning or even business planning.

 

How does a Support Broker help people to build connections?

In the scenario where a Support Broker is working alongside a person to help them self-direct their own support, they can use this approach to build on the information they have already gathered about what the person is interested in; their hopes, dreams and aspirations. This helps the Support Broker to identify where connections can be made from the person’s existing network in order to grow those connections and relationships further.

Story: Rugby passion!

A gentleman used a regular bus route and the bus driver got to know him. The gentleman would always get off the bus at the same place, and while he was waiting to get off, they would always have a chat together. The gentleman’s family & friends noticed that he talked about the bus driver a lot and they explored how they could help to build on that relationship. The bus driver frequented a local pub and invited the gentleman to join him for a drink. In time, the gentleman got to know other people in the pub and became involved in many social activities which were connected to the pub community such as quiz nights, karaoke etc. It was discovered that the gentleman supported the same Rugby team as other people he spent time with at the pub, and he was invited along to go to the matches together with them. Over time, he began to make friends with other supporters who attended the same matches and he became involved in a much bigger community network on the basis of his shared love of Rugby. These connections grew from the basis of one initial relational connection in the gentleman’s local community and his day to day routine.

Working with people’s connections is a ‘Strengths-based approach’. In other words, it is focusing on things which are positive, good and strong in the person’s life and then building on those things; rather than starting from a perspective of ‘need’, risk or deficit.

What next?

We’d love to hear from you about your stories and examples of how people are being supported to build their relationships and connections. Please email us info@imagineer.org.uk if you have a story or example you’d like to share.

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.  Consider signing up for our ‘Quick bite for lunch’ webinars which explore practical ideas taken from Independent Support Brokerage. These practical approaches can be embedded within your practice. We are also planning a series of ‘Deep Dive’ webinars for the new year, which will be advertised on the ‘Webinars’ page of our website.

You can also subscribe to our mailing list if you would like to be kept up to date with what we’re doing.

About us:

Liz Leach Murphy is the Founder of Imagineer Development UK CIC, Chair of the National Brokerage Network and a Freelance Consultant working on personalisation within the Health and Social Care sector/community space.

Liz Leach-Murphy Founder of Imagineer Development CiC

Sarah Holmes is a Freelance Consultant working on personalisation within the Health and Social Care sector/community space; and a Director of Imagineer Development UK CIC

Both Liz and Sarah are practitioners, trainers and coaches in Independent Support Brokerage and consultancy for Strengths-Based Approaches with collectively over 40 years of experience in the Health and Social care and community sectors.

Imagineer Development UK CIC is a social enterprise based in the North of England with a national reach; originally set up as a test bed for Independent Support Brokerage in the UK. Imagineer is the hosting organisation for the National Brokerage Network, which is a community of practice for Independent Support Brokers. Imagineer provides a range of training & consultancy services in Support Brokerage, Person-Centred and Strengths-Based Approaches.

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National Brokerage Network

 

 

Imagineer Training and Mentoring

Graphic Facilitation Training

Get Creative with our Graphic Facilitation Training! This is an online training course.

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Support Brokerage Mentoring

Group mentoring and individual sessions can be provided for peer support with other independent brokers from around the UK.

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Support Brokerage Training

The course is designed as a full programme which will give you all of the information, understanding and practical tools you need to be able to practice as an Support Broker.

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