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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
✔ 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
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: email@example.com
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!