Learning Disabilities & Autism

Making good support even better

Victoria Neish, Director of Operations and Quality, Affinity Trust

Victoria Neish, Director of Operations and Quality at Affinity Trust, on how the charity is rolling out Person Centred Active Support

At Affinity Trust, we’ve always been proud of the support we provide to people with learning disabilities and autism. Starting to use Person Centred Active Support has given us the tools and training not only to make good support even better, but also to evidence the approach we are taking.

Active Support is about increasing the choice, control and ultimately independence of the people we support, in whatever is happening that day. Being able to demonstrate how we do this using tangible evidence is a great feeling.

We started introducing Active Support in the summer of 2017, when we set up pilots in eight of our locations in England and Scotland, enrolling staff in a training programme run by the Tizard Centre. The success of the pilots led us to start rolling it out from October 2018.

There was a huge amount of excitement when we announced plans to set up pilots. To ensure fairness, we put in place a formal application process, asking all our support teams to submit applications.

We wanted our managers to actively want to do this, and the response we received was overwhelming.

Our Senior Management Team made the final selection of pilots, taking many criteria into account, but mainly ensuring that we were representing a mixture of support provision, as we wanted to be sure that Active Support would work for all of the people we support.

So far our pilot scheme and initial roll out has seen us introduce Active Support to 26 operational teams, supporting 130 people between them.

At Affinity Trust we measure the success of Active Support both formally and informally.

Formal measures of success include the quality of person-centred plans, internal audits, and regular observations where teams are scored against five engagement measures.

Informally, we meet regularly to discuss the difference that Active Support is making, both to the people we support and to our staff teams.

When we have successfully rolled out Active Support to more teams, we will then look to expand our evidence base to include other data sets that may show how successful Active Support is, such as in reducing behaviours that challenge or improving staff retention.

With the pilot and first phase successfully completed, the application process for the second phase will begin this Spring. The participants will attend formal training with the Tizard Centre in October. We’ll be running a number of such programmes, as we train practice leaders and observers, as well as trainers.

This time even our Divisional Directors will be trained as observers. This will give them the information they need to fully support and successfully embed the approach. Having buy-in from all levels is important, and we are very lucky that everyone at Affinity Trust can see the benefits of Active Support.

Active Support is about seeing all daily tasks and interactions as an opportunity to increase choice and control. In doing this, the person that we are supporting is engaged in a meaningful way, hopefully maintaining skills or learning new ones – so naturally we want all of the people we support to be supported in this way.

Through the pilot scheme and the initial roll out, our staff have told us how much they enjoy Active Support too. Our staff have loved watching the people they support grow in confidence and skill, and they get a lot of job satisfaction from that as well.

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