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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.

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.

Leah’s story

Here, Leah shares some of her story about caring for her three sons under the age of 18 who are all diagnosed with Autism and a range of other needs.

Tell us about the people who you care for. How old are they? What sort of things do they need help/care with?

I have 3 children all of which have Autism, some learning disabilities and possible genetic syndrome. The boys are twins (age 15) and my younger son (age 6). They’re all amazing and despite having the same diagnosis and being twins they present in very different ways and have different needs. All 3 need to be kept safe due to a lack of understanding regarding dangers. All 3 require support to meet daily care needs and this varies from prompts to full assistance. All 3 boys attend special schools, (two out of area). This makes me feel very lucky as it means that their provision has all the adaptations and adjustments required to support them successfully. I stated that this makes me feel lucky and I say that as I witness other parents and carers having a daily fight to secure such a placement. I myself had a long battle too originally, and although it almost cost me my mental health I’m so glad I persevered.

How much of your time each day/week do you spend caring for your family member/s?

For the time the boys are not at school, then they need support and I’m caring for them physically and directly- be that: sorting medication, clothing, cooking, personal needs, dealing with emotional difficulties…. there’s also tasks and appointments during the school day that need to be dealt with such as preparing for changes to routine, dealing with care plans, EHC plans, genetics, orthotics, OT, SALT, surgery, continence nurse, short breaks and the list goes on. Having said this, again- I’m lucky as I have all this professional input and undoubtedly it takes up so much time; but I know the benefits are immense and some other carers are left to struggle without this level of input. It’s hard to put any actual timings on my caring activities but needless to say that I had to leave my career 6 years ago due to the level of need so that I could become a full time carer to the boys.

 

Do you ever get a break from caring? If so, what sort of things do you like to do when you have a break?

All 3 boys are in receipt of Short Breaks and this provides a personal assistant for 3 hours each per week (term time) and 6 hours during school holidays. We also have an amazing family support network that allows us some overnight respite. When not caring, I like to walk and read. I also like to increase my skill set with training and courses (usually SEND related) to better stock my armoury in preparation for the next battle! I also volunteer within community protects and support 2 local SEND charities.

 

If you could have better support as a family carer, what sort of things would make life easier for you and your family?

Recognition that having multiple children with SEND increases need. Not having to battle and fight for everything which is constantly the case due to such a lack of funding (so you’re either fighting to get a service or fighting to keep it). Better SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) guidance that is not open to interpretation; a more inclusive society, and for person-centred approaches to be used across all services. My children’s needs are not the issue. They’re different, not broken but what is the actual issue is a general lack of acceptance and understanding. Being a carer for my disabled children has been so difficult at times, taking its toll on my own health and wellbeing. However, the one thing I’m sure of is that it’s made me a better version of myself and for that (and so much more) I’m extremely grateful.

The reality is hard, the worry for now and for the future can be all-consuming. The constant needs and demands can be draining but each day arrives with some joys (be that a milestone or just a positive day generally). It also arrives with the hope that today is the day that paves the way for true acceptance and inclusion.

Sometimes I feel completely exhausted and out of my depth. Sometimes I feel like I’ve completely lost myself. I feel selfish because I want to take a long bath, wash my hair, wear unpractical clothes, see friends, take a road trip, have a conversation of my choosing; but then sometimes this makes me feel more upset as its a glimpse into another world. I never resent my children and that’s the truth. As I said earlier, they’ve made me a better person; but sometimes I feel tired and overwhelmed especially after a long period of no sleep and when big transitions are approaching as then the worry of the future seems all-consuming. Sometimes I just need a crystal ball to show me how they’ll manage when I’m not around; or if I become ill; or if services are cut any further; or if some parts of society become even less tolerant and more ignorant. Performing any physical and practical needs can be tiring but trying to constantly plan and pre-empt for me is the part that really wears me out- my mind feels to be in constant overdrive.

How Imagineer are involved with supporting Leah:

At Imagineer, we work alongside unpaid family carers in many different ways; but one of the key ways that we can assist is by providing Support Brokerage.

If you are interested in receiving assistance from one of our Support Brokers, please contact us: info@imagineer.org.uk to request a call-back for an informal discussion, or a referral form.

For more information about Carers Week 2021, visit: Carersweek.org

 

Peter’s story

Here, Peter shares some of his story about caring for his young adult son who has Profound Mental and Physical Disabilities.

Tell us about the person who you care for. How old are they? What sort of things do they need help/care with?

He is now 20 years old with profound mental and physical disabilities. He needs 24/7 care, 2:1 during the day with a sleeping shift over night

How much of your time each day/week do you spend caring for your family member?

Actually very little, but only because we have fought to get a Personal Health Budget (PHB) which has transformed the lives of the whole family. It is hard to manage and administer – but worth it.

Do you ever get a break from caring? If so, what sort of things do you like to do when you have a break?

As above, we now have time breaks. I am now a PhD student looking into PHBs

If you could have better support as a family carer, what sort of things would make life easier for you and your family?

PHBs are great, but there is no support for you run them. This support is what is needed.

How Imagineer can provide support to carers like Peter:

  • Imagineer can provide Information, Advice & Guidance to help carers like Peter to understand the Personal Budget or Personal Health Budget process; and understand their rights within that process
  • Imagineer can support with exploring options and providing assistance for developing a Personal Health Budget support plan to meet the person’s assessed needs
  • Imagineer can provide support to family carers and their family members during meetings with Health and Social Care professionals (such as Multi-disciplinary team [MDT] meetings)

At Imagineer, we work alongside unpaid family carers in many different ways; but one of the key ways that we can assist is by providing Support Brokerage.

If you are interested in receiving assistance from one of our Support Brokers, please contact us: info@imagineer.org.uk to request a call-back for an informal discussion, or a referral form.

For more information about Carers Week 2021, visit: Carersweek.org

Sarah’s story

Here, Sarah shares some of her story about caring for her young adult daughter who is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Tell us about the person who you care for. How old are they? What sort of things do they need help/care with?

I care for my daughter who is now 20 , she needs help with daily social/ living skills. She has Autism Spectrum Disorder (late diagnosis 3 years ago), and has had a huge mental health crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in her having to be hospitalised. She has had the most horrendous year and has been traumatised because of it (as have we her family) .
As a result, she now needs help on a daily basis. Her daily needs include: Daily living & independence skills, needing to be heard in a trusted relationship, feeling safe enough to show her need and managing new and different situations (which is very hard for her). She is building trust in her PAs and has other key supports in her church, family and a small number of trusted professionals.
She is an amazing, funny, intelligent person who is working very hard to understand herself and manage life. I am very proud of her journey.

How much of your time each day/week do you spend caring for your family member?

Currently, we are provided 25 hrs of care per week (2-1) and apart from times when she is in appointments, I am her sole carer and am available 24/7 the rest of the time. Sometimes she needs me in the night as she still gets recurring dreams of her time this past year when she stayed in a mental health hospital avoidance unit. Now at home, we can only have care at the times when the agency are able to provide staffing- not always at times when we need it.

Do you ever get a break from caring? If so, what sort of things do you like to do when you have a break?

Currently, even though we have scheduled care in the family home, I often still need to be available for crisis support.
When it’s a good day, I love to meet friends, go out for meals, do craft etc.
I would love to see family and friends that live at a distance. I love to go to church and volunteer to do activities.
When things open up more theatre is great to visit.

If you could have better support as a family carer, what sort of things would make life easier for you and your family?

As a carer I have had to tackle a wide variety of issues by personal research and enquiry. It has felt that on each occasion I have had to gain skills in unfamiliar areas when there should be information available.

For example : education (EHC) tribunal, legal action, safeguarding, mental health, social care, etc.
It would be helpful if there was a source for all these challenges in one place so you don’t feel like you’re alone and reinventing the wheel each time. Peer to peer advice would also be helpful.
Professional help seems there for the client but the carer may be traumatised, in need of support eg counselling etc , and are expected to continue until breakdown. Carer hubs seem to deal with a limited range of basic support. Independent support for carers in the form of a budget for counselling/ advice, etc would help prevent breakdown of care in the home.

How Imagineer have been involved to support Sarah and her daughter:

At Imagineer, we work alongside unpaid family carers in many different ways; but one of the key ways that we can assist is by providing Support Brokerage.

If you are interested in receiving assistance from one of our Support Brokers, please contact us: info@imagineer.org.uk to request a call-back for an informal discussion, or a referral form.

For more information about Carers Week 2021, visit: Carersweek.org

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.

 

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.

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.

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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

 

What does Support Brokerage look like in practice?

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

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.

The fuel & the Support Broker

 

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.

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.

Are you interested in finding out more?

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. Our next Support Brokerage course is running in February 2020.  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.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for on our website, please send us an email: info@imagineer.org.uk

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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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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Find us on Facebook

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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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