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In the past few months, we have been responding to changes in the Health and Social Care sector and making decisions about the best way for Imagineer to continue offering Training, Support Brokerage and support for organisations in relation to Self Directed Support and Personalised Care.

Since 2012, Imagineer has continuously flexed and changed shape in response to different governments, new legal frameworks and policy drivers in relation to Health and Social Care. We have flourished as a small organisation, and have grown our team via a network of associates, extending our reach to further areas in the UK. We have delivered lots of meaningful work over this time, supporting local community-based initiatives, organisational change and development; and the delivery of numerous projects which have centred around the practice of support brokerage. We have delivered training at organisational, local and national level and we have provided mentoring and coaching support to individual practitioners and teams.

As the demand for our work has grown, so has our team! We now operate via a network of practitioners, all bringing significant skills and experience to the delivery of support brokerage.

Our values at Imagineer have always steered our thinking and practice.

The changing shape of the wider social care sector has led us to explore a more equitable team model rather than a hierarchical approach, which provides opportunity for different team members to flex their capacity and explore other projects, areas of focus, passions and interests outside of Imagineer, whilst remaining part of the community of practice.

Two specific team changes to note are Liz and Mollie (who are our longest-serving members of the core team!)

Liz founded Imagineer in 2012, and is excited to be carving out an opportunity to have more time to follow some of her interests which include coaching, dementia care and support; and system change influencing around deinstitutionalisation. Liz is stepping down from her substantial role as Managing Director of Imagineer, but is remaining as a Director on the board, and will still be involved in some of our delivery work alongside other members of the team.

Mollie joined Imagineer as an apprentice in 2013 and has grown the Graphic Facilitation aspects of our work to a point where she is now ready to fly solo! The Big Picture Graphic Facilitation will now be led by Mollie as an enterprise on its own, and she will continue to offer Graphic Facilitation work in partnership with Imagineer in the future. Do sign up for her newsletter if you’re interested in keeping up-to-date with what she’s doing!

As a team, we’re excited about the continued influence of Imagineer’s work, particularly through our work with NHSE to support hospital discharge of people with learning disabilities and autistic people. We’re also keen to continue growing our networks and connect with a wider reach of people interested in our work. If you’d like to be part of the network, please join our online community ‘Be Better Together’ to continue the conversation about Self Directed Support, strengths-based practice and community.

You’re also welcome to sign up for our monthly newsletter here.

For Christmas 2023, we are sharing our #12DaysOfSelfDirectedSupport with twelve top tips for Self Directing your Social Care and Health support.

You can reference this as a complete tool kit for Self Directing your own support or you can select the sections which apply to your own personal circumstances.

Day 1: Your Rights

For people at the beginning of the process of accessing Health and Social Care Support, a good place to begin is to learn about their rights.

The Care Act 2014 is the legal framework which governs the provision of Health and Social Care in England. Visit the .gov website for a range of Factsheets about the Care Act to find out more.

Day 2: Assessment

Everyone has a right under the Care Act 2014 to request an assessment for Adult Social Care support if they believe they have eligible needs. Carers can also request their own assessment for support under the Care Act.

Read our Information sheet about #eligibility to help prepare for a Care Act assessment.

Day 3: Personal Budget

Everyone who has been assessed as having eligible Social Care needs has a right under the Care Act 2014 to request a Personal Budget in order to #SelfDirect their support.

A Personal Budget is a way of choosing how your support will be paid for and managed. It gives you the level of control you want over how your support is planned, organised, provided and paid for.

Read our past blog article about #ChoiceAndControl which shares a real life example of a situation where a #PersonalBudget could make a real difference to someone’s #Outcomes.

Day 4: Personal Health Budget

If you have received a #ContinuingHealthCare assessment, and have been deemed to have #eligible needs, you may be entitled to a #PersonalHealthBudget to #SelfDirect your support.

A Personal Health Budget is a way of being in control of, paying for and managing your own Health support. It gives you the level of control you want over how your Health support is planned, organised and provided.

You can choose to receive the budget as a payment to a bank account or you can ask a #ThirdParty organisation to manage the budget and make the arrangements on your behalf.

Read this fact sheet from NHS England for more information.

Day 5: Circle of Support

If you are choosing to #SelfDirect your own support, a good place to start is to think about the people who are important in your life, who are great at helping you, spending time together and who understand you really well. These are the people who you might want to involve in planning your support, exploring your options and helping you to make new connections in your local community. We sometimes refer to this group of people as a ‘Circle of Support’.

Watch our explainer video with Mollie to find out more about #CirclesOfSupport

Day 6: Advocacy

Sometimes, people who are choosing to #SelfDirect their own support might need some help with expressing their wishes and preferences to ensure that their assessment and support plan is #PersonCentred

The person is entitled to an advocate under the Care Act 2014 legal framework. There are several different types of advocates who can help, depending on the type of issue or support required:

-Care Act advocate

-NHS complaints advocate

-Mental Capacity advocate

-Mental Health advocate

-Independent advocate

Voiceability have some excellent information on their website, including an explainer video about #Advocacy

Day 7: Support Brokerage

Sometimes, people who are choosing to #SelfDirect their own support might want to work with somebody independent of the Local Authority or NHS to explore their options, talk about their ideas and hopes for the future and put their support in place. This is where working alongside an Independent Support Broker can be really helpful in opening up ideas, options, possibilities and solutions for the person, and keeping the momentum going so that the person receives the support they want to achieve their outcomes.

To find out more about #SupportBrokerage watch our explainer video

Day 8: Dreams

In the process of thinking about the future, making plans and organising support; Dreaming is an important part of listening to the person in order to understand what is important and to explore ideas which help the person to experience a good life, based on what they have shared about their dreams.

We have a simple template available to download for #free from our website, with an explainer video to support conversations about ‘Dreams’.

You might also be interested in watching our webinar on ‘Dreams’

Day 9: Explore your options

Once the person has had opportunity to learn about their rights, think about how they want to receive and manage the budget for their support, it’s time to explore options for how the person wants to live their life and how they would like to receive support to do that.

It’s not just about looking at a ‘directory of services’ available in the local area. It’s about starting with the ideas the person has expressed about their life and their future, and then exploring possibilities about how the person could be supported to achieve these outcomes. It might not just be about what is available locally, but about exploring about how to make something happen which does not exist yet. #SelfDirectedSupport is a mechanism which supports this approach, and allows the person to tailor their support in a way which makes sense for them.

The Person’s #CircleOfSupport might also offer to get involved in exploring opportunities and making connections for the person. The person might use some of their budget for paying for support, but some of these opportunities and connections may be relationship-based and without a financial cost attached.

Here are some tools and templates which could assist with this process, and are #free to download from our website.

Day 10: Build connections

Once the person has had explored their options for activities and support, and expressed what they would like to do, the next step is to actively start building connections with people and places the person is interested in. .

The Person’s #CircleOfSupport can offer support with this process (in making introductions) or the person might want to build connections independently.

A tool which could assist with identifying the people and places where the connections need to happen is called ‘The fifth circle’ and it is #free to download from our website (along with an explainer video about how to use it).

Day 11: Support Planning

Once the person has had explored their options for activities and support, built connections in their local community and expressed how they would like to be supported, the next step is to develop a clear #SupportPlan with all of this information, showing where each activity or form of support is sourced from, any associated costs, and the source of funding which will cover the cost of this. An itemised and costed Support Plan can be shared with the person’s social worker or care co-ordinator if funding agreement is needed. This is what a #SelfDirected Support Plan should cover.

The person can say if they want to employ their own #PersonalAssistants to support them or if they want to use an agency to provide support. They can say how they want to receive their budget (if they are eligible) to pay for their support, and they can decide how they want their budget to be managed. This information can all be included in the Support Plan.

At Imagineer we follow the #SevenCriteria for developing a Support Plan:

  1. What is important to the person?
  2. What does the person want to change or achieve?
  3. How will the person be supported?
  4. How will the person use their budget?
  5. How will the person’s support be managed?
  6. How will the person stay in control of their life?
  7. What are the steps to making the plan happen?

By covering all of the information in the #SevenCriteria questions, we can be confident that a comprehensive and effective support plan has been developed in #Coproduction with the person and anyone involved in helping them to make decisions.

Our webinar ‘Introduction to Support Brokerage’ covers some of these key ideas.

Our #free template series ‘Getting the support right’ also has some helpful tools which you can download to use for working out the content of the Support Plan.

Day 12: Make it happen!

Once the person has developed their #SupportPlan and received agreement from Social Care or Health funders, it’s important to keep the momentum going so that the plan is actually put in place. This is where working with a #SupportBroker can be really helpful to coordinate who is going to do what, and creating an action plan which everyone involved agrees to and is held accountable for.

Our #free template series ‘Making it happen’ has some helpful tools which you can download to use for implementing the Support Plan.

We hope you find it useful!

Setting the scene

In our recent conversations with other experienced and esteemed practitioners in the field of health and social care, a regular topic keeps coming up. Why aren’t we seeing real progress in Adult Social Care transformation?

Why now is it still seen as ‘progress’ when a student Social Worker talks about a person they are supporting on the basis of their skills and strengths? This is not new, and it is not innovative. In fact, if a social worker is describing this type of practice, they are merely demonstrating their compliance with the Care Act and Care & Support statutory guidance.  We are not seeing change, because those who are the gatekeepers of the change are still seeing ‘new innovation’ as practice which is aligned with what the innovators were discussing and doing 30 plus years ago.

Innovative work is often observed from an external position, where the work of the innovators is recognised, admired, heralded and celebrated but still seen as separate to ‘what we can do’; therefore those that are in a position to make a difference do not recognise the role they have to play in making it happen. They don’t recognise how they can be part of making the difference themselves – always seen as something the the people on the other side of the statutory fence do. It is common practice to attend conferences and online events which are presented as ‘an audience with the innovators’. The problem with this is that innovation continues to be seen external to the audience and the very gatekeepers of change.

What would it take?

So what would it take for people not only to see and admire the ‘innovative’ work but to embed it into their practice, for them to model this approach and build it into what they do, rather than celebrating it as ‘best practice’ and ‘something to aspire to’?

Is this about providing support and guidance; and to be alongside people, building it into their practice as they stretch their comfort zones until it becomes part of their comfort but preventing them from going into the place of panic? Is it about bringing in what is covered in the Be Humankind practitioner experience around recognising your circles of influence, concern and curiosity;  functioning from a position of influence and courage whilst being in high states of self care? 

Organisations need to focus on building an organisational culture that has psychological safety as a foundation, so that those with the passions, skills and understanding can dare to do things differently and to feel safe and supported in the pursuit of this. We need a health and social care system that is not defined by users and providers but by people being alongside each other in the pursuit of a better life experience. 

Wherever the answer lies, it is this dynamic shift in culture and practice we need to see before we can expect to observe any dynamic shift in the way care and support is organised, sourced and experienced.

How Independent Support Brokerage creates the shift

Independent Support Brokerage creates the shift by working with one person at a time. It does not start with standardisation of processes, forms and templates (which often squeezes out creativity and innovation). Instead it focuses on some key principles:

Listen: to what is happening for the person. Use discovery conversations to understand what the person wants to change or achieve. Start with the strong stuff. Relationships, skills, interests, passions, connections, hobbies. Learn from listening about what a good life looks like for the person. From this foundational information, exploration and planning can happen.

Explore: From the basis of what has been learned from the person, support the exploration of possibilities, opportunities and resources which are available to support the person in what they want to change and achieve. From this stage of the listening, learning and thinking, the person can begin to form some clear ideas of how they want their life to look, and how they would like to be supported with it.

Connect: From the exploration which has taken place, create some ‘maps’ of assets, relationships and opportunities which the person wants to include in their planning. Make connections. Facilitate conversations. Access resources (which could include statutory funding such as a Direct Payment of Personal Health Budget) and secure assets which will support the implementation of the person’s ‘good life’ plan.

Action: Support the bringing together of the final plan. This may need to be signed off by statutory decision-makers, so it is important that the plan meets eligibility and requirements for sign-off. The plan should include costings for any paid-for elements of support, but could also include non-paid elements which still contribute towards the person’s overarching wellbeing outcomes. Once the plan is agreed, an action plan to support the implementation of supports and resources is helpful to ensure that support is put in place for the person. Ongoing support around review and update of the plan may also be helpful.

 

Support for self-funders in managing and arranging their social care

Case study

Imagineer supported a lady who had been identified as eligible for social care support. She was supported by the direct payments team from her Local Authority, but the social worker refused her a direct payment on the basis they did not believe she could manage the arrangement. This resulted in a commissioned provision being identified. The provider of the commissioned support focused on meeting contractual requirements and was not prepared to meet the woman’s needs in a personalised way. The provision broke down on two occasions. A new social worker began working with the lady and arranged for a new provider to meet her, without having a conversation with her about who she wanted to be supported by.

When the lady raised the fact that she wanted to explore other options available to her, the social worker ceased the direct payment, and she was left without support. Imagineer supported the lady to make a complaint via the Local Government Social Care Ombudsman, which was upheld and resulted in the social worker offering to carry out a new assessment. The lady refused because the whole process had been so traumatic. She decided to self-fund her own support in a way which makes sense for her, so she has self-funded a cleaner to help her with domestic tasks, and somebody to take her shopping. Imagineer provided Support Brokerage through each stage of the process until she reached the solution which made most sense for her.

If you’re interested in the range of ways in which Support Brokerage can assist Self-funders in arranging their own care & support, please contact us at: info@imagineer.org.uk

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) has been involved in developing Small Supports projects in a number of areas.

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.

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 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 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.

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. 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

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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