Simon Tobin, Autism Trainer and Ambassador and Unity Representative
My name is Simon. I am an autism awareness speaker, an expert by experience being autistic myself. I have my own business delivering autism training, and I am also supported by and work for Achieve together.
At Achieve together we strongly believe that working together with people drawing on support is the building block of great quality support. This is why we have a dedicated Co-production Team, of which I am a part, where we work together to represent the voices of people supported by Achieve together. We make sure that people have their say, are included in decisions, policy making, projects, initiatives and more. We also make sure that people are seen and respected as equal partners in the design and provision of their own support.
We have two representative groups of people we support – Unity, a co-production group working internally within the organisation, and Campaign 4 Change, a self-advocacy group representing the rights and views of people with learning disabilities and autistic people nationally. Members of both groups are paid for all work that they engage in.
In 2022, Unity members were really busy with a range of activities and events to promote the Wheel of Engagement, our framework for holistic, great quality support. Early in the year, I presented autism and learning disability training to Achieve together’s Board of Directors together with Mary Woodall (Campaign 4 Change, and Learning Disability England (LDE) Representative Body Member).This took place in their offices in London and was a big success.
We also have our very own superhero, Captain Co-production, who sweeps in to ensure co-production is embedded across Achieve together. The Captain Co-production animation created by Unity was presented across different events and conferences.
Unity also helped deliver several Driving Up Quality events around the country to promote the Wheel of Engagement, with a real-life Captain Co-production played by Unity Representatives to deliver the message of the importance of co-production between team members and the people Achieve together support. Unity, as part of this, has launched a #IsThisCoproduction campaign to encourage everyone to consider that with any planning or decision – is this co-produced?
Each month we promote a different theme from the Wheel of Engagement such as physical and mental wellbeing, goals and dreams, employment, and personal identity. Unity and Campaign 4 Change create a podcast to discuss the Wheel of Engagement topic of the month, which is available on social media and podcast apps. I’m also part of the Autism Strategy group of Achieve together which aims to create a plan on how to support autistic people in the best way possible, including autism training which I will help deliver.
Unity is also very involved with helping create company policies, procedures and documentation. We recently assisted the HR department to review the recruitment procedure, ensuring people we support are always involved in hiring new support team members. Unity Representatives also help attract new candidates at recruitment events.
Campaign 4 Change members presented at a number of national events last year, including LDE annual conference, where they promoted people with profound and multiple learning disabilities being included and visible in society. Samir El-Ziftawy, who was involved in the conference, has profound and multiple learning disabilities and demonstrated the need to ‘remove the cloak of invisibility’ that surrounds people with profound and multiple learning disabilities in our communities and within learning disability policy.
I feel it is important for everybody’s voices to be heard, and support provider organisations must ensure people who draw on social care support are involved and included in decision making and always ask the question #IsThisCoproduction.