Darren Kirby, ISF Development Manager at Yarrow, explains our Planning Live events, and how they encapsulate how much has changed for adults with learning disabilities over the last decades. The people we support are taking full control and participating in all of the decisions that affect them…
“This week marks the start of another exciting new chapter for Yarrow. On Friday we’re holding the first of our three Planning Live sessions, to support the people we work with to plan how they want to live their own lives and take more control.
Planning Live is an important part of our new model of service, Direct Your Support, which was co-produced by the people we support, commissioners, families, Yarrow staff and experts by experience. Direct Your Support began in July 2018, and we are implementing it over the coming years as we support people to make the transition from a traditional block contract to Individual Service Funds (ISFs). We are supporting people to create a plan that is tailored and costed to meet their needs.
Across our three Planning Live days, we will be gathering together 55 of the people that we support in Hammersmith and Fulham. Alongside members from their circle of support – their family, friends and professionals that they know – we’ll spend time looking at what they like and enjoy, what is important to them and what they really want to do with their time. This will include talking about their gifts, talents and contributions, and the role they want to play in their community. These promise to be fun, lively and stimulating events! It’s going to be amazing to see where people will choose to spend their own funds.
The output from Planning Live will enable us to build up a picture of an ideal week for each of the people that we support in Hammersmith and Fulham. The next step will be to work co-productively with partner agencies and providers to gather together services for them to choose from that will enrich their lives and help them to continue to flourish.
I’m so excited about these events, and as this year marks 30 years since I started working with people with Learning Disabilities, it seems a good moment to reflect on how much has changed within social care and support for adults with learning disabilities in that time – and how much I have changed too.
When I started work in 1989, people were still making the transition from large institutional care homes and hospitals and resettling back into their communities. The people I supported then were well cared for, but whilst staff busied themselves and worked hard, the people we supported were merely observers of their own lives. It was almost like living in a hotel: staff were on hand to do everything for them.
Nearly every person with a learning disability went to a day centre, Monday to Friday, 9am to 3.30pm – and there was never any thought of doing something different. Work was never considered as an option, and there was little time for anything else either. Little thought was given to, for example, supporting people to do their own shopping or choose their own clothes: staff did all of this on their behalf. At the weekends, if people went out (which was not that often) it was in a large minibus, in a group, and usually to a park.
The people we supported were also not involved in their reviews. It was felt that they could not contribute much, and no efforts were made to make the reviews accessible or to help them understand what was going on. The reviews never discussed what a person wanted; they were focused exclusively on clinical needs and behaviour.
I first encountered the concept of person-centred planning in 2000, shortly after I joined Yarrow. It was a big change in focus, and it took us a while to really get to grips with supporting people to choose such abstract things as where to live and who to live with. We also supported people with complex needs into employment taking close notice of what they were good at and what they were interested in. We created opportunities for people to meet their families and friends on a regular basis and plan social activities with their friends in the way that any of us do.
Over the last 30 years, I’m pleased to say that things have changed dramatically. People with learning disabilities are rightfully being placed at the centre of everything that goes on in their lives. All decisions are now made with their full involvement. Our Planning Live events are the next step in this journey towards giving the people we support total control, and I can’t wait to get started!”