Podcast Episode: Self directed support: North Lanarkshire demonstrator project
Category: Self-directed support
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.
IW - Ian Watson
CO - Carron O’Byrne
MD - Morag Dendy
GK - Gerry Kelly
Interviewees: Carron O’Byrne and Morag Dendy, North Lanarkshire Council and Gerry Kelly, In Control
MD We’ve really tried to put families at the centre and give people much more choice and control over the lives they want to live and the supports that they put around them, not necessarily traditional services within that, and helping people understand the individual budget that’s available to them makes such a big difference, but we are also clear that what works in adults in working out what budget is right, isn’t necessarily the same as what works for children and families, so the opportunity to test something out specifically around children and families is really exciting.
IW Someone at the end of the introduction session there asked about whether this was going to be quite beaurocratic, whether there was going to be a lot of form filling for them and they seemed concerned for their social workers too, can you say something about how it will work in practice?
CO The demonstration model is planned around the needs of the family and them being able to tell us and influence us in terms of what the outcomes are for the young people, so what we are looking to do is reduce the bureaucracy that goes around planning and actually have it simplistic and make sense. We will support - we will have Gerry and ourselves and the workers and the families going through that process together, so that actually its a working assessment that families direct rather than be passive recipients of service: they are the ones that are going to lead the outcomes for the young person and the young person will be central to that and hopefully we will involve the young person for them to say to us what it is they want as well, what they hope to achieve from the demonstration, the £200 over the summer break.
MD I suppose one of the reasons that we like it being called a demonstration project rather than a pilot is that it is genuinely about working differently with families and then learning from that how to do it on a bigger scale and that definitely means that some of our systems need to change so that social workers are released to do the important bit of getting alongside families and working together in partnership, and not form filling and not being stuck with the kind of bureaucratic bits that often end up feeling like you are surrounded in red tape and really all you get is you can’t do something, rather than you can. So we need to learn from this experience of doing it in relation to changing those systems for it to work on a bigger scale.
GK I think we have got a real issue and this is an opportunity to cut away some of that bureaucracy, I mean we know that on average young people with disabilities between the age of nought and 18 will go through an average of 32 assessments, average costs about £1500. That level of bureaucracy has to stop, not only from a cost, we can’t afford that, but actually what are the outcomes from those other assessments, can we do it on a much more coherent way around … young people and their families live 1 life, don’t they, so why are we surrounding them with, on average, 32 assessments, because our workers are doing that. All those assessments come together to form a coherent plan around those young people and influence the families in becoming more resilient and having better lives. I don’t know if 32 assessments does that, this is an opportunity to cut away some of that bureaucracy that we do, I think the danger in at the minute we are running 1 system, we are trying to bring this system in, there’s a tendency I see that it’s difficult for workers, its a hurdle that you have 2 systems then running and they are going, oh we are already busy enough, so how do we make it easier for them until we get this system in that it overtakes the current system and provides … and what we don’t do is just reintroduce a slightly different but similar, bureaucratic structure, this is a chance to do away and cut away with that and we have to.
IW So what sort of things do you think the families might spend this money on and are they completely free to do what they like with it?
CO I suppose Gerry spoke a bit about you know, it has to be legal, so we have to be aware that what families are spending it on is legal, and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that families won’t use it in an appropriate way, but it has to be flexible, we can’t be prescriptive, if we are being prescriptive we may as well go back to the model that we had, so we have to look at what are the needs of that family, what is the outcome that they have identified and actually is this able to help them achieve that outcome. So there is, as Gerry rightly said, there is no evidence in all the work that he has done with In Control, that families will use this money to go away and do something that is not in keeping with the needs of their children: all these families are here because they want good outcomes for their children, and we as a local authority and In Control, want to support them to do that, we don’t want to get into that system were we are being prescriptive, so putting parameters around it actually won’t work. So we need them to tell us how they want to use that money and we will be as flexible and supportive as possible for that process to happen.
MD I think the opportunity to do something different, do something that families maybe wouldn’t have been able to do over the summer holiday, do something which is exciting, which they do all together or which the young person gets the chance to do with friends, I think the more that its something that’s really enjoyable, the better.
MD Uh huh, and suppose we had the example where the Mum who has got 2 disabled children within the family: actually the stress of that and thinking about how do I occupy these 2 young people with very different disabilities but both with very different needs, outcomes and wants, will be really interesting to see how does she use the 2 lots of money to … you know support a good outcome for both children and that’s how we are saying you can do that separately, you can do that together, but the very fact that she is saying, well can I have that, you know for me demonstrates the fact that there is a need out there for us to be working differently with families.
IW Yes Gerry I think you mentioned that point that some families felt a little bit, maybe not afraid, but they were … this was a new thing to know that they were in control of that money, for example in which taxi firm they used.
GK Yes, well people having their own budgets, I mean physically having the money, it changes the dynamic about the relationship with providers, taxi firms, people who are in the children’s and their lives, and that’s a really important bit, but we shouldn’t underestimate the power that … because people haven’t been used to having that, it takes a while to get used to it because its quite scary. If you have always been passive, as you say, in the past Karren, you know you used to phone your Social Worker, they will sort out the taxi firm, you are kind of removed from all this that is happening around your families life, although its really important you should be central to it and you are not. There’s that lack of really taking control. When they are in the central driving seat, its very, very different, they start asking questions. For example I had some families who were on one of the first pilots down in England who started going into schools and some of them went into college and asking the college, what are you doing each day with my son, and the college had to come out and explain and they were on the phone to me saying, how dare they come in and ask - different power … the family were then saying, ‘I want to see what you are doing with my child every day’. Well I don’t think that’s a lot of work, yes but we are doing all these things, so I had to explain a bit more about what they were doing to support that youngster and families were able to say and challenge them on what their input was. I think that’s a really positive thing, because it keeps them on their toes about demonstrating what their job is and are they are doing it to a consistent standard.
IW So this morning was the second of two introductory sessions and certainly, from what I saw there is a pretty positive feeling around the room. What’s the next step in this pilot?
CO The next bit is about planning, supporting staff, families and ourselves even as managers to think differently about how do we plan … to use this small amount of money over the summer holidays, and we will use the knowledge that Gerry has from all of the different authorities that he has worked alongside and all the different stories that he is able to bring and make live, you know this use of spending. So that will be the next process, but fundamentally part of it we need to have the young people there because they are able to say, and at times challenge even their parents and say, for those young people who can, well actually I would like to do this, this is what I want to achieve, because you know at times they may not have been able to give a voice to the outcomes that they want to achieve, so hopefully we will be able to support young people alongside their families to think and plan and that’s what is going to happen over the next couple of weeks, over again another two days.
MD I think the opportunity to plan with other families in the room, with other workers in the room will also be really interesting in terms of folk learning from each other and hearing what each others ideas are, and that maybe sparking things that folk haven’t thought about or making connections that they didn’t think were possible, and I think the opportunity to do that isn’t something that we have got lots of experience of, but will make a difference to the feel of it and the kind of shared learning for all of us out of that.
GK And if we connect those young peoples lives and those … the parents and families and carers of those young people, as a knock on effect, we have a better connected group of parents and carers around North Lanarkshire. That’s not a bad bi-product of this demonstration, is it? And that’s what we want, we want people to be in strong networks because we know the impact is they are more resilient and actually they don’t have this culture of dependency on their social worker or their teacher or whoever: what they do is, they are part of the network, the social worker fine, but other people are as well and they share the load with all of them, because this onus that you phone your social worker if your washing machine goes wrong - I haven’t seen families do that locally, though I have heard of it when I was a social work manager in the past, and I would say to my social work staff - why have they phoned you?
CO And I think that was clear when the parents were speaking and they were talking about the play park for instance, and they were saying, you know the ability for their children to access play, the local play parks, it’s limited because they have a disability, you know, the toys or the equipment that was within them wasn’t appropriate and actually physically accessing it was really difficult, and that was a shared experience, and hopefully from that and from the answers Gerry was able to give, it’s about them building confidence to challenge. And as a collective group challenge, because a collective group is far stronger when they are challenging local planning partners or anyone, so again there’s evidence that that is starting already because folks are there and they have that shared experience.
IW That’s quite interesting raising the idea that a group of people could be more effective, because one of the questions people might ask, particularly when they watch the film about.
GK Groups can be stronger, I mean one of the challenges I face from going in and doing the introductory sessions up and down Scotland and England and other places is, I get told, oh this suits kids with Downs' syndrome or it suits kids who are more able or it suits middle class articulate families. Yes it does suit them, but this can be tailored and flexible enough for all the families we support. I mean I am particularly interested in, yes the families that turn up here today, great, they are the ones that feel well and able enough to come today, but there are families that might well have heard about this and they should have, who go - I can’t even face going into Bellshill tomorrow, I couldn’t get that bus and I just couldn’t sit there with everybody because I would be afraid of bursting into tears, I’m so tired and so whatever, so its trying to use these approaches … so after this demonstration project I will be thinking and talking to you about how do you start getting out to those so called, harder to reach families, because we know the outcomes can improve by using this pathway for them as well, and not this being a default great thing for middle class articulate families, because it’s not. We have lots of examples now of families who could never be classed as middle class, wouldn’t want to be classed and are very proud to be working class and from different areas and proud of their background, and I think they have as much right and this is about transparency, fairness and equitable access to local provision. And part of our work is to try and make sure its open to them.
MD It’s interesting because one of the criticisms that is levied at us often is, is it right to raise expectations, you know if you are doing this, is that right because can you follow through and can you do that with everybody, and I suppose the flip really is, its true, isn’t it, that unless we do raise expectation and raise aspiration, then that’s where we failed, so its about kind of taking the enthusiasm and the commitment to seeing one person’s life flourish and us trying to do that with everybody.
CO Because I suppose the other aspect is, the young people themselves have aspirations, they have goals, they have things they want to achieve and they often aren’t part of a society that sees the barriers, you know they will see at times things haven’t gone their way, but they continue to have these aspirations, so we have to be able to support them to have those aspirations and to live that ordinary life, and why should they not, why should they experience something different because they happen to have this disability. You need to see … I think certainly a young person that I have worked with in the past, she spoke about ‘don’t see my disability, don’t see my wheelchair, see me and my ability and what I can do, not that this wheelchair prevents me from doing,’ and I think that’s right for all of our young people: see the ability and what they can achieve and as a local authority we need to support that and support families to have the same aspirations that their young people have.
IW Gerry, Morag, Carron thank you very much. We look forward to picking up later this month and over the summer on how the pilot goes, thank you very much.
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