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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.

 

 

We talk about being person-centred in social care, but what does this mean in the context of supporting people with learning disabilities or autistic people to leave a long-stay hospital or assessment and treatment unit?
When we talk to leaders in adult social care they openly admit “we can do better for people” with regards to community support and getting a good life.

So how can we do better?

One national project, Small Supports, is providing some answers and raising some questions about how we support people and commission services differently.
Personalisation and being person-centred is at the heart of this project, with twelve sites nationally supporting the growth of small providers. Amanda (from the Team at Imagineer) is involved in developing the Lancashire and South Cumbria Small Supports project.

What are Small Supports?

Small Supports are small, local organisations who work with people with learning disabilities and/or autism, who have experienced difficult or traumatic life events and who need a different approach to support them to leave hospital.

These new providers will focus on putting the person in the driving seat by building strong relationships with them and their family and circle of support. Fundamental to this is their willingness and ability to listen deeply to the person, their aspirations and hopes
for their future and then to help them choose and plan what a great life looks like for them. Conversations about support and risk follow that.

Why small?

The belief is that remaining small enables the leaders of the organisation to keep in touch with everyone, the people being supported, their families and those providing the support. Small is also very much about quality. Building strong relationships of trust with the individuals they support and their families, the commissioners and the community teams is vital to ensuring quality continuous support. Being able to ‘touch the sides’ of the organisation means that when challenges arise and changes are needed they can be spotted early and acted upon quickly.

Being small and local also means the leaders and paid supporters in the organisation are rooted and engaged in their community. They are able to build links with the person to their community based on their assets and strengths.

People are therefore able to contribute to society and build relationships outside of their family and paid support, something Small Supports strongly advocates. Focusing on individual’s aspirations and building intentional relational networks with and for the
person means that anything becomes possible, including friendships, finding love, getting a job, being a good neighbour and regaining health and happiness. Whilst these things may not seem like a great ask for most people, for many people who have lived for years in locked environments these important life experiences may feel out of reach. Small Supports is aspiring to change this by putting the person at the centre of the decision making in their life including focusing on what a good life looks like for them.

How does Support Brokerage fit in?

This is where quality Support Brokerage fits in. Being able to use a personal budget in the form of a direct payment, third party health budget or individual service fund offers a way to use creative and strengths based approaches to build a support plan directed by the person and their family. Every person has unique strengths, assets, gifts and skills and these are the starting point for building a dynamic support plan with the person in the driving seat. Looking at the person’s aspirations first, instead of a ‘one size fits all’ approach to buying support services; a personal budget enables the person to be directing their plan and how they want to spend their money so that the support wraps around them. The provider is there to support the individual and broker services as directed by the person. This will look very different for each person. Support Brokerage enables this bespoke and highly creative approach to designing a support plan which makes sense to the person; and drawing on all of the other strengths, connections and resources available to the person which can help to make their plan a reality..

Why Personal Budgets?

What Small Supports organisations learnt was that compromising on control and aspirations is when things start to go wrong. Using an individual service fund or a personal health budget enables the person to be in control, supported by their family and the provider. This type of personal budget offers flexibility like a direct payment.
Recognising that daily life is not on a schedule, is not predictable and is not the same every day. The person, their family and network supported by their provider can flex the support around the person’s choices and changing needs and if something unexpected comes up, they can adapt. This is not necessarily the case with a commissioned or managed budget (sometimes referred to as a ‘notional’ budget), where they might have to ask for a social care review to change the support plan, which may not happen immediately.

An individual service fund (ISF) is where the person and their family might like the idea of directing their support and being in control but don’t want the responsibility of managing the finances, staff and payroll. The provider or a third party helps them work out how to spend their budget and create their support plan and is accountable for it on their behalf; while the person remains in control of their support.

How can you get involved?

People who have successfully established their new Small Supports organisation tend to be people who have a background in providing or commissioning services.
Some are people with lived experience and family members, some are learning disability nurses, commissioners or social workers. However, they are bold and compassionate leaders committed to human rights, who understand the value of their community, aspire to provide high quality, local support and plan to remain small but sustainable- not supporting more than 5 people in their first year.

All Small Supports sites are actively looking for brave values-driven people who want to explore with them how to set up their own dynamic citizen-focused great Small Supports organisation. They will need to be tenacious, pro-active, flexible, good at problem-solving and passionate about making a difference and supporting people to live a great life.

Find out more

The Lancashire and South Cumbria Small Supports team are looking for passionate people to help us do this. Get involved or find out more .

Find out more about joining the Small Supports programme and other Small Supports sites in England.

 

Amanda Topps is an Associate Consultant at Imagineer. You can read her full bio here.

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

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.

 

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.

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

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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