Transcript: ISBA 2016: The 10th International Short Break Association conference - Don Williamson

Don Williamson, ISBA President, explains the background to the biennial ISBA conference that was held 13–15 September 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Podcast Episode: ISBA 2016: The 10th International Short Break Association conference - Don Williamson

Category: Carers 



What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

ED - Ellen Daly
DW - Don Williamson

DW What is ISBA? Right ISBA stands for the International Short Break Association and it’s a worldwide initiative made up of a whole variety of different agencies and organisations who are all providing healthcare and respite services for families who are concerned or affected by disability. It began back in 1995 with a Conference in a place called Thunder Bay in Canada and the event was entitled Rendezvous for Respite and then we managed to bring together 300 people from 13 different countries, possibly the very first time that that’s ever happened that we’ve had such a large gathering of people with that shared sort of common interest in respite and then from there it evolved into a whole series of Conferences which happen every two years and they are hosted by different countries and Scotland this year is hosting the 10th event.

ED So what is it trying to achieve?

DW The main purpose is to provide an opportunity for the people in our sector to come together to share knowledge and experience. As we know we are all under a lot of time pressure at the moment. There’s lots of challenges that we are facing in our different organisations and so this is one of the rare opportunities that people have in our sector to kind of step out of all of that day to day routine work and to look at the bigger landscape and just sort of be much more aware of what’s happening in countries around the world and what we can learn, what we can share with each other.

ED So what’s the context for the Conference?

DW So each Conference is the responsibility of the host country to set out the themes and the content for the events so there was a lot of opportunity for us here in Scotland to be able to tell people about some of the big issues that we’re facing here, and so at the same time of course you want to have something that’s relevant for the people attending from the other parts of the globe. So the central theme of the Conference this year is Unlocking Potential and we recognised that there are significant challenges taking place out there. The demand for services is increasing, peoples’ expectations of services is changing and there is increasing pressure on the public money that used to, or the money that we’ve relied on to keep these services going. So I mean inevitably this means that we have to find new different ways of sustaining and developing our provision and the idea for unlocking potential is to say well maybe there are other partners, there are other players out there who have capacity that we can maybe tap into, who can help us. It’s about engaging in our wider communities to get communities taking up some of the responsibility for looking after people who have got care needs and looking after the carers who help those people too, and also to see whether even businesses themselves may have a role to play in terms of supporting the communities in which they actually deliver their services. So you know unlocking potential is sort of the key theme and each day it’s sort of threading back into that overall sort of midline.

ED What have been the key points of the Conference?

DW What struck people, we were into day two of the Conference and already we’re beginning to see that many of the challenges that we’ve been talking about are shared challenges across the countries that have been represented here. So we’ve got a tremendous amount in common. I think we may describe or we may have different ways of describing some of the things that are happening but what is common is that there is this big shift towards giving people much more choice and control over the way that their public services are delivered including short breaks and the fact that peoples’ expectations are changing and people are no longer that happy to expect the sort of “one size fits all” approach. They are now sort of starting to waken up to this idea that actually we should have more options. We should have more ability to control the resources that help us access the support that we need and I think the big question for many organisations is this question of sustainability. You know in the face of these changes, in the face of the funding environment that we’re existing in at the moment is, how do we ensure that our services remain viable and sustainable for the long term so that there is. You know when people talk about choice there has to be a range of provision out there for people to choose from and there is a real threat to many of our services at the moment is that we’re going through such a turbulent period that it’s sometimes difficult to imagine how our services are going to change and evolve to get through that period and what we’re going to look like at the other side. So I think that’s what struck people is that we’ve got an awful lot in common here.

ED And what will happen now?

DW Well these events happen every two years and so I think one thing that we’d like to happen as a result of this event is for there to be some kind of legacy so that this isn’t just a Conference that happens, it finishes, people go away and there’s no follow up afterwards. So we’d like to think that there’s some legacy going forward and we can see some progress and development. And so one of the main ways that we’ve been trying to develop that over the two days is to sort of really emphasise this idea of building stronger relationships and building international connections so that those countries that are maybe a little bit further behind can maybe feel that they can get some support from countries who are a bit further down the road and already we’re beginning to see that in the learning exchange area where people are starting to sort of make those connections, talk to people, start to sort of relate ways in which they could maybe work together going forward and have these sort of inter country connections which is really exciting. The next Conference will take place in Iceland in 2018 and that will be announced at the end of our last day, and so I think some of the themes that will emerge through the research that we’re doing with Iriss will help to inform the content of the Conference in Iceland. So we’ll have that sort of continuity. Something that’s sort of emerged from our event here in Scotland that will then be picked up and developed in Iceland. So I think that’s what’s been really nice about, well I hope so, about this event is that people don’t feel this is a sort of one off event but there is very much that sense of progress and development as we go forward.

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