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It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since Boris Johnson announced that we must ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS & save lives’.

Although it’s important to acknowledge we have not been in actual ‘lockdown’ for a full 12 months and there have been varying levels of restrictions at different stages; the impact has been felt far and wide. Many organisations involved with supporting people directly in a face-to-face context had to work out ways of doing things differently.

At Imagineer, we set about very quickly in thinking about how we could adapt our different services, delivery style, support and engagement to ensure continuity for all of the different people and organisations we work alongside.

Early innovations

Early on at the beginning of the pandemic and the first lockdown in 2020, we developed a ‘Support your street’ resource for free; which was available for people to download and use in their local community to support neighbours who were isolated, shielding or unwell. The resource was advertised via our social media channels and 20 people requested it for use in their local communities.

We also set up weekly ‘Brew Crew’ online coffee morning sessions (using the zoom platform) which were primarily set up for the people we regularly engaged with and provided Support Brokerage to- as a way of keeping them socially engaged and connected while ‘staying at home’. We delivered 36 of these sessions and had 9 regular attendees, whom we have been able to remain connected and engaged with. The people participating in the sessions have also provided peer support to one another during a very lonely and isolating 12 month period.

Changes to our usual service delivery

We worked fast to adapt the delivery of Support Brokerage, Brokerage Management and Support Brokerage Training so that this could continue online, using the zoom platform. Team Imagineer very quickly developed and honed their skills in using the platform to hold meetings, deliver webinars, provide mentoring support and training.  We also used the zoom platform as a way of continuing to engage with the people and families we work alongside.

As a result of working in this different way, we have:

New services

As a small, local and community-based organisation in West Yorkshire; the adaptation of our service delivery to an online platform immediately increased our reach and our engagement, and we have grown our networks significantly over the past 12 months by virtue of moving to nearly 100% online engagement and easier accessibility for people and organisations further afield wishing to connect with us and our work.

We saw an opportunity to share our years of experience, tools and resources we have been developing- increasing our connections and understanding of what is happening on a wider scale; by starting to develop a range of different webinar learning and engagement opportunities.

These have included:

Quick Bite for Lunch webinars

We recognised the need for people to stay connected during the pandemic. All of the usual methods of networking were unavailable to us because of lockdown rules. We decided to develop a series of Lunchtime networking webinars online and based around a key theme. Each ‘series’ has 6 sessions. The webinars run over lunchtime on Wednesdays for 30 mins over 6 consecutive weeks to explore different topics related to the series theme. People could bring their lunch and listen to a short introduction on the topic for the week, followed by an opportunity for a group discussion and a place to share stories, best practice etc. We have run 2 of these series so far- the first was on ‘Person-Centred Approaches’, and the second was on ‘Rights’ in relation to Health and Social care Support.

In total, we have delivered 12 of these sessions, with regular attendees. Our third series on ‘Rediscovering Communities’ is starting on 14th April (there is still time to book if you’re interested in attending!) We have used feedback from previous session attendees to develop the content for future series, based on what people want to hear about. We now have a plan for regular series throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022!

Deep Dive webinars

Some of the feedback we had been receiving from people who had undertaken the Support Brokerage training was that they would value some ‘deeper’ detailed training into specific areas of knowledge and practice in relation to Support Brokerage, and the wider context of Health, Social Care & Community Development. We began to develop content for some more detailed and in-depth webinars which would last longer (1-2 hours) and we named these ‘Deep Dive’ webinars. Again, the content has been developed from themes which people tell us they would like more information about. The Deep Dive webinars are designed to be interactive and practical- enabling attendees to interact with each other in small groups to put their learning into practice and explore some of the deeper challenges and issues. So far this year, we have delivered two Deep Dive webinars on: ‘Having difficult conversations’, and ‘Developing a complex support plan’. Both webinars have been well received and these are now planned regularly throughout the year on the first Tuesday of each month.

Thought Leadership webinars

One of the opportunities with moving our work to an online platform was being able to engage with a much wider audience to develop relationships, networks and conversations about doing things differently and better.

As an organisation, our social mission is ‘To facilitate an empowering society and culture that supports people to live their best lives’, and so we are always keen to connect with others who are working towards the same goal and who have a desire to make a real and lasting change in society.

We decided to invest in developing and delivering some ‘free-of-charge’ thought leadership webinars in order to reach out and make connections with more people and organisations. So far this year, we have delivered 1 of these webinars: ‘Exploring the strength of community’ and we are preparing to deliver another webinar entitled ‘What does ‘good’ look like?’ in April. Both webinars are based on the content of  two papers we wrote and published in the past year (see below for more details).

E-learning

Moving most of our work to online platforms also encouraged us to overhaul our website and to restructure it as the central point from which all of our activities can be accessed. We have been working with our friends at Pivotal to make these changes, and we are really pleased with how it is shaping up! Part of the website development work has included developing an e-learning platform where we will be launching online training in addition to our zoom-based webinar and  training delivery. The first course which has been developed is Graphic Facilitation and this is now live and available to book. We are looking forward to releasing our next few elearning courses within the coming months.

Blogs

One of our commitments this year has been to share about our work more regularly. We have published a total of 13 blogs on the main Imagineer website; and Mollie has also been busy developing some blogs about Graphic Facilitation on the Big Picture Graphic Facilitation website too. There are plenty of interesting topics on the blog page if you fancy a browse!

Consultancy work

Doing the majority of our delivery work online in the past year has freed up a lot of travel time, and has enabled us to begin engaging on wider pieces of consultancy work with organisations who are wanting to work in new and innovative ways.

So far this year, our consultancy work has involved  helping organisations to train up their staff as Support Brokers; developing community-based welcome & advice hubs; providing information, advice and guidance support and training to family carers; helping support provider organisations to consider developing an Individual Service Fund model; and developing community circles and community brokerage models.

We’re really keen to help launch and support more projects of this nature. Our approach is always creative, warm and friendly. We encourage a working relationship with our consultancy clients which is collaborative and  inspirational. If you are interested in developing a new way of working or testing out an idea which will benefit citizens and communities, please do contact us for an exploratory conversation.

Publishing papers

Over the past year as we have reviewed our range of services, delivery style and range of activities we engage in as an organisation; it has afforded us the opportunity to reflect on the impact of our work, and where we want to focus in the future. Our reflections naturally developed into two papers which laid out our story and our thoughts to enable us to share this with others.

Exploring the Strength of Community

This was developed as part of a wider series of thought leadership work on Neighbourhood democracy, shared by Fellows of the Centre for Welfare Reform and Citizen Network, in June 2020. In this paper, we explored the challenges and limitations of the current welfare systems; and we explored and discussed the potential which was available within local communities which could help to meet need in a ‘Strengths-Based’ way.

We also presented the paper in the form of a webinar, which is still available to watch here.

What does ‘good’ look like?

This paper was developed as an update to the paper which Liz wrote in 2015 entitled ‘Reimagining Brokerage’.

As we began to write it, we realised we had many stories to share of our experiences of delivering Support Brokerage in the UK for over 10 years. What resulted was reflection of some really shining examples of best practice in relation to Self Directed Support; and also quite a lot of examples of where things have not gone so well- exploring some of the barriers and challenges which have been faced. You can read the paper here.

We hope this has given you a good flavour of our year in ‘lockdown’!

If you’re interested in any of our work, or would just like to connect, please contact us: info@imagineer.org.uk or subscribe to our mailing list to be kept up to date with what we’re doing.

It’s quite common to hear about ‘person-centred approaches, ‘choice and control’, and ‘self-directed support’ in Adult Learning Disability and Autism services; but we don’t often hear about innovations and personalised approaches in the delivery of older people’s care and support arrangements.

Imagineer has been delivering training in person-centred approaches including support brokerage for many years; and recently we were approached by a forward-thinking provider organisation in Devon- Love2care

This organisation provides home care support services mainly to older people across the Torbay area of Devon. They are rated as ‘outstanding’ by CQC and have a really unique, creative and personalised approach to the way they deliver their services.

Traditionally there are 3 main types of service model adopted for the care and support of older people:

The founder of Love2care Devon- Maddy Bird was keen to train her staff team in the principles of self-directed support and to develop their skills as Support Brokers so that they could really open up the way they supported their clients both at home beyond the traditional models of support, and also when there were any transitions into a hospital environment or a change in their care and support needs. Love2care commissioned Imagineer to deliver the full accredited Support Broker training to an initial group of staff at the organisation. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the training was moved to online delivery, via the Zoom platform.

Maddy talks below about their experiences of doing the training and the impact it is making on their work as an organisation:

Love2care has people at the very heart of the service, and when we talk about ‘people’ we don’t just mean the person we are caring for.  We mean them –  absolutely, but their loved ones also – the carers who provide paid and unpaid support. We also value our team and employees, as people. We focus on getting to know what matters most on an individual basis – not just feeling like we are completing a set of tasks for someone; but that we are facilitators and part of a support system, as advocates, listening ears, and objective eyes.

I often say to people that Love2care is a person-centred organisation, because although we may be juggling a lot of changes or difficult situations; we are disciplined in our practice, ensuring that others don’t feel that strain. We are careful to ensure that people feel listened to, heard and valued. We then support each person to look at ways to address what it is that they want to achieve.

Our service is very much focused on building & maintaining positive relationships, and having clear boundaries.  We work hard to avoid getting caught up in bureaucracy. We truly try to work with the people we support, so that they can live the life they want to. For me, the word ‘facilitators’ is very apparent within the organisation.

My work background prior to Love2care was in a corporate organisation, and my role was ‘brokerage manager’ – working under a ‘prime provider’ framework with my local authority. I loved being able to help secure care and support for people, but what I quickly realised was just how ‘un person-centred’ the processes were. I felt that (for me) care has been a vocation, and a journey, and yet throughout my career I was starting to come further and further away from the person. I was brokering care and support for people whose names I didn’t know, as it was done via an excel spreadsheet. For me, this just wasn’t ok. 

I felt that I needed to do more.

I then established Love2care, and through my work, I have just always had a passion for changing that experience. I have been able to do that via Love2care in some areas, but I then had a vision that my team around me would have the competence and the desire to support people more, enhance their lives, and also have meaningful conversations. 

I think within our service we regularly felt like we had more to give, but less autonomy through local authority contracts. We equally wanted to support our local community – so there were definitely feelings of restriction and limitations in our role. I developed an idea using support brokerage, and using our CQC registration, which explored a new model of care offering the potential to free up social care time and resources; and work in a much more personalised way with people to self-direct their own support.  

We really enjoyed our training. There were a couple of things for me, firstly being able to invest in my team to develop them personally and professionally; giving them a skill set and knowledge base that not all front-line social care staff have the opportunity to normally receive. The training is giving them the confidence and competence to be able to have more in-depth conversations, and autonomy to look beyond a task list for people.

Secondly, what I also took away really positively was that our care and supporting planning was really person-centred already. Recognising that as a home care provider, we had the resources and we were utilising them; but through completing the training we were able to go deeper. I now have more resilience and flexibility within the service, to offer people we may not necessarily need to provide with direct support, but to offer them a brokerage service that means they are feeling heard, and that they can self-direct their own support.

My staff team have the autonomy and confidence to go beyond the norm. They understand how to look at different resources, so people remain independent for longer. Even just our conversations as a team have changed – I feel that we have given people more choice and control – allowing them to make the decisions they want for their lives.

Our local commissioners are really enthusiastic about us thinking differently. We are looking at developing Individual Service Funds (ISFs) within our local teams; however, due to the restrictions of Covid (and now heading into winter pressures), I think there is some delay – even though in one sense and in an odd way, I also feel that because of Covid – we are years ahead.

We will keep doing our thing, and hope that people see that a new model of care could really make a difference.

Surely we have to try?

Are you interested in finding out more?

Imagineer offers accredited support broker training, mentoring and other training/resources relating to self-directed support and strengths-based approaches regularly throughout the year.

Visit our explore our website for further information which can be found under the drop-down menu heading ‘What we do’’ for further details, and subscribe to our mailing list to be kept up to date with future training dates. 

To find out more about the work of Love2care- Devon, visit their website: https://love2care.uk/about-us/

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.

 

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.

Maddy Bird has worked within Adult Social Care for 10 years, in various roles from Community Carer, Care Coordinator, Brokerage Manager in a prime provider commissioning model, and is now founder and leader of an Outstanding Rated organisation, Love2Care Devon – established in 2017.

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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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