This morning I went along to the launch of North Ayrshire’s new Learning Disability strategy. MainStreet has had a role in facilitating that over the past six months, and it was great to see the outputs of that first bit of work – over 100 people (a good mix of service users, carers and staff) leafing through shiny copies of the plan.
That document, like all of these things now, is honest about the challenging financial situation and a need for some difficult decisions. But the Health & Social Care Partnership has thought hard about its priorities and sets them out very well.
Much more important of course was that participants were responding so positively to the actions that the Partnership is committing to. While there are some exciting initiatives for changes to facilities and buildings used by people with learning disabilities across North Ayrshire, the driving force for everything they’ll do over the next few years is giving people much more control of their own lives.
That means a transformation in the way everyone thinks about and delivers support locally. We’ve been delighted to be involved in a piece of work that will develop genuine choices on how people with learning disabilities spend their time and money, in activities that stimulate and develop them whether in education or employment.
And in the right environments too. In the question and answer session today, one of the service users asked about the development of new accommodation options. It’s clear that those who use LD services want – simply – to be supported to live ordinary lives.
What’s really gratifying though is that – for the first time in many years – we have been involved in a sustained piece of ‘co-production’. In facilitating the development of this strategy, people who use or benefit from LD services locally have been consistently consulted, included and actively involved in something that affects them. More than 60 service users and carers contributed meaningfully to sessions designed to capture their frustrations with and aspirations for the service, and in several iterations. The first priority and action in the strategy committed the Partnership to work with National Involvement Network (NIN) to adopt the Charter for Involvement (CfI) locally, alongside other measures to develop service user engagement. Pleasingly, adoption of CfI has already happened.
That was reinforced today by sessions presented by local NIN volunteers, who spoke eloquently about the importance to them of the 12 CfI principles and how they’ll be rolled out across North Ayrshire.
Among those principles, two are directly relevant: “We want to be involved in decisions made by the organisations that plan and run our support” and “we want to be involved in events run by the organisations that plan and run our support”.
The strategy is already making a difference. North Ayrshire really is changing how it works with its service users.