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Last Spring, I wrote about how we were putting in place the
foundation blocks to enable the organisation to move forward on our
Fast forward almost a year and we've achieved a lot.
Our Personalisation Blog written over that year charts the
recent journey and adventures we've been on.
In summer last year,
we also introduced you to John, a family member who is involved
in the journey for Emily, along with other members of her circle of
support. John was excited about personalisation because our
approach reflects the aspirations that he, and others, have for
Below is an update from John about what's been happening
recently. It tells the tale of his experience of 'Planning Live' -
the event written about in
our last blog.
Whilst John's experience highlights what a positive event
Planning Live can be, it is also a useful reminderthat you need to
know the allocation of money before you start, and that this can be
a challenging process.
"The Planning Live! Event took place over one day. Emily's
supporters were us (her parents), her brother, another member of
her Circle of Support and her key worker. Our starting point was an
understanding of what is important to Emily and
what is important for her, derived from work
already done by her Circle of Support. The process then took us
through a series of steps which led to defining a Perfect
Week for Emily and the actions necessary to put that into
practice, which clearly present a number of challenges.
The Event showed that the Planning Live! process could be
fully relevant for Emily, who has complex needs,
provided all those supporting her understand and are realistic
about her skills and abilities. The discussion on Hopes and Dreams
in particular focused strongly on the aspiration of her supporters
that she should receive care and support which is both high quality
and delivered consistently, independent of us as parents.
The Event did not include consideration of funding for the
activities in the Perfect Week ("In My Control" Costs) because the
results from the Care Fund Calculator had not yet been finalised.
Further discussion will inevitably be required when the results are
available. We also thought that "Core Support" Costs may be an
issue if we are to establish funding which fully reflects Emily's
need for extensive staff time for meals and other personal care,
for a proactive approach to health care and for very specific
Overall, we felt that the process could provide a
real opportunity to move towards a more
personalised service and sits well with the objectives and
actions of Emily's Circle of Support."
So, a year on - the foundation blocks are now being built on,
and hopefully all of the processes and systems and strategies we
have put in place are helping other people, like Emily, to move
towards a life with more choice and control.
Over the past few months, I've talked about how
we have launched our Personalisation Guide internally, so that our
regions can continue on their personalisation journey at the local
level. I've also talked about the preparation we've done to ensure
the skills and resources are available to make this real.
Beyond all of this preparation there are a
number of stages on the journey. 'Planning Live', shown in our
Journey diagram below as 'plan' - is one of those.
Once you know what a person's allocation of
money is, 'Planning Live' it is a planning event that brings all
the people who are important to a person together, to listen to
what is important to them and discuss a range of life and support
It culminates in a set of outcomes that the
person wants to fulfil in the coming year and a template for a
'perfect week' on which to base the planning of the person's
The event brings everyone who lives and shares
support together into one place, each with their own support circle
made up of family, friends and supporters. This produces a great
environment for learning and sharing and the days end up being very
engaging, and at times fun.
Not only do people come up with a person-centred
plan for their life and support, but they all have their own
allocation of money for support. This is essential for when they
begin to plan what support they need to make the changes they wish
for in life.
Planning live is not a professional's event, it
is not stuffy, or too formal. It is facilitated in a way that puts
people we support and their families first, and stimulates
ambitious and helpful ideas.
One of my colleagues, Paul, recently facilitated
a Planning Live event with a group of people we support and their
circles of support. In listening to his experience of the event, it
highlighted what things are important to make an event like this go
- People! Those we support and their circle of
support - the event was an equal partnership with families,
managers and support staff, all working together to make it a
success and to get the desired outcome for people we support. When
a group of people come together and find a common purpose they can
become very resourceful, more so than when working as independent
forces in someone's life.
- Great facilitation - the facilitators' role is to provide
structure and flow to the event, as well as setting the right tone.
At the same time however, facilitators will need to be flexible to
deal with the times when things don't go quite as planned.
Upholding person-centred principles is the number one priority for
the facilitator. Paul and another colleague facilitated the event.
Someone we support was late arriving, so the rest of the group sat
around watching Oklahoma - a favourite film that someone we support
had brought along and everyone else was able to enjoy, rather that
sitting around waiting, or the person arriving late feeling left
- Creativity - people we support had things at hand to make them
feel at home - their drawing materials, music and headphones, their
- They worked hard and had fun in equal measure,
in the right atmosphere, with food and refreshments and a good
space to work and record information in.
So, why do all of these things matter?
To get the most out of Planning Live, thinking and preparing for
the day carefully will make it a success:
A lot has happened this year.
I've said this before here, but over the last few weeks we have
been reflecting on our personalisation journey.
A year ago, I wrote a piece which described my own introduction
to our personalisation journey and considered whether I was up for
Taking stock, like we have done now, is when you realise how
much progress has been made, but also the work that is still to
Whilst the project team has been working away in the background
over this year, developing strategies and templates and processes,
and all the other 'stuff' that helps provide frameworks within
which to deliver our personalisation journey, our operations teams
have been preparing the ground locally, helping to embed
person-centred thinking tools and habits and continuing to be there
for the people we support.
Developing Our One Page Strategy has been a key focus over this
year - this document captures how we define success, how we will
work to achieve this and how we can tell whether we've been
successful or not.
As I write, these posters are being put up in our offices and
workspaces across the organisation.
However, putting up a poster is not enough.
We have been gathering evidence from our colleagues to see how
far we've come:
- around 300 employees trained face to face on person-centred
- around 2000 employee one page profiles
- around 400 people we support attending Everybody Counts
Those are only a few of the measures, and we're currently
defining the key indicators that will show us how we've improved
and changed the lives of the people we support, so that they have
choice and control. We still have a long way to go, but compared to
what these numbers would have been a year ago, we have made
We have also been reflecting on how we've engaged people (our
employees, families, people we support) in our journey so far and
how we can best communicate the reasons for the journey and what it
blog is meant to be a way to do that, and we know that some
posts are more popular than others. We're written about the meaning
of personalisation, explained some of the tools and talked about
the activities of the project team.
But having got all the 'stuff' in place, we need to make this
journey real, so that everyone is motivated to make it
What would make it real for you?
I spent a day earlier this month with some people we support and
their support workers at an Everybody Counts group. These groups
come together so the organisation can hear what's important to
people we support at a local and national level, and so we can
share with them things that are happening within Dimensions.
It is also, though, a great chance for people to re-connect with
friends or support staff who used to support them - each time
someone enters the room and are recognised, they are given a loud,
warm, welcome greeting.
Everyone took their turn to say hello to the group - and sing a
song or tell a joke. There were some classic choices - Elvis, Cliff
- along with some gospel, Patsy Cline and Hakuna Matata from the
We heard about our
Social Care Charter, and the experience of some people we
support who visited MPs at the Houses of Parliament, telling their
story about what's important to them and the pledges that have been
developed - things that other people might simply take for
- I want choice and control over my money
- I want opportunities for greater independence
- I want to be a part of my community
- I want to have control and choice over my relationships
- I want to have a voice and be listened to
The people we support at the Everybody Counts group, who
contributed to the development of these pledges, talked about the
choice and control they have in their own lives, including choosing
who they share a home with, getting their own money out of the
bank, buying a cappuccino, going dancing on a Friday night, making
tea, going on holiday and staying up late to see an Elvis
We listened to what's working for people in terms of these
meetings - "everything!" - and what's not working - it starts a bit
too early, and the access to the room is very important.
After a lovely lunch and hearing about the plans that people have
for this weekend - having nails done, seeing friends, going on a
boat trip - it was time to say goodbye.
Listening to the things that make people happy, it demonstrated so
clearly the importance of the Social Care Charter - giving people
with learning disabilities and autism the chance to live the life
they choose, and making sure that their choice and control is
protected in any future policy reform. Everybody should be signing
When I got home that evening, I watched incredibly talented
athletes with a learning disability compete in the Paralympic
The possibilities are endless; and so they should be...everybody
Earlier this week, we brought together 60 of our senior managers
to launch a guide and toolkit for our personalisation journey.
This Guide reflects the learning we have experienced in our
personalisation journeys so far.
Making it Personal: A provider's journey from tradition to
Making it Personal for Everyone
As well as operational colleagues, the workshop involved
managers from our resource ring, including HR, performance,
compliance, training, housing and marketing.
This is important because our mission is to make a difference to
people by delivering personalised support that improves their
quality of life, therefore every single person who works for our
organisation is part of our journey and our commitment to being a
Our operational regions will now be progressing the journey with
their staff teams, the people we support, their families/friends
and commissioners, but we know this isn't something 'new' because
there's already a lot of excellent work being done that is helping
to deliver personalised services for the people we support.
Our journey will face challenges, but despite the concerns that
were raised during the day, there was motivation and enthusiasm to
make progress, and an appreciation that personalisation is 'what we
It was a packed agenda, and we covered a lot of ground at a fair
pace, but there was lots of time for reflection, and in response to
our title question, we know that:
What excites you about personalisation?
There's lots going on, isn't there?
I don't know about you, but life seems hectic.
Even when you think outside your own world and everything you've
got on, the news is full of stories about life for the people in
countries where conflict rages, and they must just be battling to
get through each day.
Closer to home, there's been the Jubilee celebrations and now
the Olympics is about to start in our own backyard. Add to that the
great British summer - all of that rain and the damage and chaos
The planning that must have gone into putting on a competition
of the scale of the Olympics is almost unimaginable.
The stories we've now heard about how some things haven't all
gone according to plan does make you wonder about part of their
planning process, and fans of the BBC comedy 'Twenty Twelve' will
be questioning whether fiction has actually turned into reality,
but there must be so many things to take into consideration that we
should give them some slack, and a lot of positives have already
Next week it will all come together. The participants have been
training and working so hard for so long to compete in their chosen
activity, and this is their chance to hopefully reap the rewards of
the hard work. For the spectators, an opportunity to take part in
the events and support those involved is also exciting. I know I'm
looking forward to cheering on our paralympians in the Aquatics
Centre on 5th September.
In our own organisation, and on our personalisation journey,
there's a lot going on too.
We've been writing a lot in our blog about the strategic
planning we've done over the past 6 months or so to carefully
consider how best to roll out our personalisation journey across
the whole organisation, taking account of the challenges we face in
terms of scale, resources, etc.
However, it feels like we've picked up more pace and momentum,
particularly over the past month.
Just as the Olympic Deliverance Committee - sorry, the
Organising Committee - get ready to see their plan get implemented,
although it's not quite the same as an Opening Ceremony, in the
middle of August we're going to be launching a step by step Guide
& Toolkit for our 17 regions to roll out our personalisation
We don't have as short a timeframe as the Olympic athletes to
make this happen, but we are going to be closely monitoring
progress over the next 4 years to make sure we're able to realise
our vision and commitment to enable the people we support to have
choice and control in their own lives.
We're also not going to be awarding gold, silver and bronze
medals, but we are going to be recognising and rewarding staff who
best demonstrate our values, including personalisation. For our
Inspiring People awards in September, there are some wonderful
nominations for individuals or teams who are doing an amazing job
to enhance the lives of the people we support, for example:
At the start of the Olympics, athletes and judges will be taking
an oath to confirm that they "take part in these Olympic Games,
respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing
ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true
spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of
Last month, over 45 senior managers in our organisation each
made their own 3 pledges as to how they would support and advance
our personalisation journey. We've already seen progress being
made, and will be encouraging local teams to make similar pledges
as they roll things out.
We have also launched our
Social Care Charter, which contains 5 pledges, identified by
the people we support as the things that would best enable them to
live the life they choose. We are asking everyone, including MPs,
to support this charter, ensuring that the needs of people with a
learning disability and autism are central to any future reform or
So, there is lots going on, but it is positive
and it is progress.
If you're reading this, then you will have heard the word
'personalisation' but do you know what it means?
When I was at school, and we were asked to describe something,
we were told to imagine that someone has come down from outer
space, and doesn't know anything about what you're talking about. I
used to think that was a strange thing to do, but in a world full
of jargon and buzz words, perhaps it's not such a silly approach
In a recent survey of staff about our personalisation journey,
we asked them to define what personalisation means:
At the same time, we asked staff about the person centred
thinking tools - we've been using them within Dimensions for a
number of years, and have talked in earlier blogs about the
training we have started rolling out across the organisation and
how we use the tools.
Although we were encouraged by the number of people who could
name the tools and demonstrate using them, we are less sure if
people understand the connection between the use of the person
centred thinking tools and our personalisation journey.
In Making it Personal for Everyone, Chapter 4 talks about using
person centred thinking to gather information. As is clear from the
definitions that our own staff have identified above, in order to
put people we support in control of their life and what they want
to do, we need to find out what's important to people, how they
want to be supported, what they want to do with their life, what a
good day and perfect week looks like for them.
Therefore, the person centred thinking tools can help us gather
this information, but in a way that gives the person we support as
much choice and control as possible.
For each area we need to learn about in someone's life (such as
important people, important places, where they want to be in a
year's time), then there is a person centred thinking tool to help
gather the information.
We also need the support of all our colleagues in the business
support teams (such as finance and HR) to help us on our journey,
and as a person centred organisation, we also use the person
centred thinking tools and approaches in our everyday working life
in the office.
In Making it Personal - our Personalisation Journey, we're going
to be spending some time explaining the connection, and helping
people make sense of all these buzz words.
We've also just asked 45 of our senior managers to make 3
pledges to help us on our Personalisation Journey. We're creating a
buzz of our own.
What does personalisation mean for you? Could you describe it to
the person from outer space?
Have you ever taken part in an activity, a discussion, a
project, or some training, and then been asked to give your
thoughts on the outcomes, or how you have found it?
Sometimes, it's the question you hope you're not asked, because
it can be difficult capturing your thoughts and feedback in a
concise and helpful way.
I often found this to be the case - until I started at
Dimensions and was introduced to the 4+1 tool.
When I first heard the words '4+1', I admit I had no idea what
they meant or what they referred to - and I was a little bit
apprehensive about using the tool the first time around.
In that situation, we were reviewing quite a difficult process
that had taken place - there were lots of sensitivities and I was
struggling to see how the review was going to be constructive or
I am pleased to say, however, that after answering the 4+1
questions, and using it in a number of different situations since
then, I am a convert and have found it to be a valuable and
straightforward tool for reviewing situations in a positive and
productive way, and identifying actions which are meaningful and
The '4' questions you ask are:
The '+1' question is - Given what we know now, what's next?
We use the 4+1 tool in many ways across our organisation,
including after project reviews, in appraisals, following training,
in team meetings, etc.
As you know, we are on our personalisation journey, and have
started providing training for our staff on person-centred tools
and practices. Many staff are already using some of the tools, so
as part of the training we use the 4+1 tool to capture
Here are some of the quotes that have featured in the 4+1
responses about the training we are providing on the person-centred
thinking tools - it will hopefully show you how useful this tool
can be, encourage you to use it and demonstrate why person-centred
thinking is so important.
Some questions for you to consider:
Ok, so perhaps the last question doesn't immediately make sense
when considered alongside the others, but these are the sorts of
issues that we had to ponder last week, when attending a training
course about Positive & Productive Meetings, facilitated by
Helen Sanderson Associates.
The Positive & Productive Meetings process "helps groups
stay focused on their larger purpose and the outcomes of each
meeting. The tools and techniques foster an environment where
people can contribute and feel valued. Creative problem-solving and
collaboration flourish within the structure of the
We used some of these tools and techniques in our training:
Creating a welcoming environment
Although we held the training in a hotel meeting room, which
can, even at the best of times, be cold and soul-less, our
facilitator (Michelle) had made the room very welcoming. There was
music on arrival (and at all the break points) to help energise
people. There were posters on the wall ready for the group
exercise, which added colour to the room and were something to keep
you alert. Most importantly (for me!), there were sweets on the
tables - something to touch and enjoy! All the senses were
Opening and Closing Rounds
We each introduced ourselves to the group and were asked to say
one good thing that had happened - this could be either work or
home related. This helps people to stay connected to the meeting
and creates a positive tone. The closing round gave people an
opportunity to tell the group one thing that they would take away
from the training and use. Everyone had learnt something, and could
see how best to implement it.
Review Meeting Map
Michelle outlined the purpose of the meeting and clarified the
Agenda and timings at the beginning of the day. We also agreed the
ground rules. This is where the ABBA song comes in - we agreed
that, if a mobile phone went off, or someone was seen looking at
their e-mails on their phone during the session, that they would
have to sing an ABBA song! We agreed circumstances (e.g. if a
family member is in hospital or labour) under which phones might
need to be answered, but no-one in the room was in that position.
It was fascinating - I didn't see one person fiddle with their
phone, and no phones went off during the session.
We also agreed the start and finish time of each part of the
day, and that if people were late back from a break, we would start
regardless. At the morning coffee break, only a handful of people
were back on time. As agreed, Michelle started the next session,
and people hurriedly, and a little bit embarrassed, walked in.
After that, and for all the other breaks, people were back on
We undertook a number of group exercises during the day, but one
of them was Timed Talk:
Generally, people found this a useful way of giving people space
and a chance to have their say. Some people found it frustrating,
because it's difficult when you want to verbally agree with
something someone has said, or ask them a question. It does,
however, also allow the person listening to refine their thoughts
and consider carefully what they are being told.
Putting it into Practice
Our last exercise of the day was a mock meeting, putting into
practice everything we had learnt during the day, including the
allocation of roles, agenda development, the use of rounds and
There is a lot of tools and techniques that can be used to
achieve Positive and Productive Meetings. What we hope now, is that
everyone goes away from the training and models the behaviours and
approach, drawing on those tools in the right way, and at the right
You might be wondering what all of this has to do with our
journey towards personalisation...Well, in our commitment to embed
person centred thinking tools and approaches, we want everyone
using the techniques, role modelling and showing the way. Our
message is clear - there is no escaping - wherever you sit,
whatever you do, we are heading your way!
We are using different approaches and tactics to reach out to
everybody - this is another one of the ways we are attempting to do
In previous articles, we have written about how we are gearing
up to introduce person centred thinking tools and individual
service funds throughout our organisation, which is made up of a
number of regions across the country.
The planning of this is challenging and like other
organisations, there are always other things happening at the same
time - important activities or projects which cannot be forgotten,
but which we work hard to ensure don't become too much of a
distraction from our personalisation vision - to enable the people
we support to have choice and control over what they do, how they
spend their time, who supports them and how they are supported.
Spring-time is said to represent renewal
or the start of better times. It is a time of changing weather,
extended daylight and (hopefully) some sunshine. In every day
terms, it might provide a chance to clean out those cupboards
you've been meaning to sort out all year, or see a glimpse of
daffodils and blossom on the trees.
Even with lots of challenges, it has felt, particularly over the
last couple of weeks - which perhaps coincides with a feeling that
spring had sprung - as if we are moving forward:
- With the start of the regional training events, the person
centred thinking tools course has given people an opportunity to
stop and re-focus on the people we support, remembering what it
must be like to view the world through their eyes. Although only a
few sessions have been completed, the feedback has been positive
- At our Leadership Group meeting last week, we tested our
leaders on their knowledge of personalisation, and the person
centred thinking tools and we were encouraged by the results; we
affirmed our commitment to being a person centred organisation.
- Our One Page Strategy, which defines what success means and
how we will measure our success, is almost finished.
We have a planning session this week to look at the next steps,
and in particular how we can roll out training in an effective and
efficient way to our 4,000 staff.
We are 'springing' forward.