Chat Co-Production Learning Disabilities & Autism Real Lives

Purpose, trust and flexible commissioning

Dan Johnson

Choice Support, a social care provider, has committed to Making it Real, Think Local Act Personal’s framework for good care and support. Dan Johnson and Sherri Hope, from Choice Support, and Elizabeth Deeves, from Bexley Council, discuss how this approach is supporting changes in social care commissioning.

Dan says:

“I’ve worked with people with learning disabilities in adult social care since the early nineties. Like many people I’ve spoken to over the years I sort of fell into it. I took on a temporary role one summer, loved it and never left. It was different, fun, and exciting.

I’ve always worked for providers, but something changed and the work I once loved became just a job. I found myself going through the motions and had lost my spark. Somewhere amongst all the restrictions and paperwork I’d lost my purpose.

Then Sarah, our Chief Executive, asked us to focus on two questions:

 –   how do you make sure choice and control is as close to the people we support as possible?

– what are the barriers that get in your way?

One of those barriers was trust. With so many policies and procedures in place that control us, I felt my flexibility and creativity had been lost. Can people really live the lives they want if we don’t trust the staff or organisations supporting them to live?

As an organisation we’re also asking ourselves “why?” about everything we do. This is the question that reignited my spark. This question has given me back my purpose. I’m being me at work again, not just doing a job.

With the London Borough of Bexley, we’ve been working on building trust and changing the way services are commissioned. Our traditionally block commissioned services are transitioning to Individual Service Funds (ISFs). TLAP’s Making it Real is one tool we’ve used to help us with this. “I know how much money is available to meet my care and support needs. I can decide how it’s used – whether it’s my own money, a health or social care personal budget, or a budget managed on my behalf”. This I statement from TLAP’s Making it Real is at the heart of this transition.

It hasn’t always been an easy journey, just understanding the complexities around the ISF finances has given us several headaches. Learning ourselves while supporting our teams to understand a new way of working was challenging. But we believe with challenge comes opportunity.”

Sherri adds:

“I really like the way Bexley are changing their commissioning to ISFs. Before, people’s funding was tied up in one place. It was stuck in a service rather than attached to them as an individual. Now, people have the choice of where, when, and how to use their funding. It isn’t swallowed up just because of where they choose to live.

It was difficult to get our heads around at first, and I’m sure there are more challenges to come. That doesn’t matter though because of the opportunities this creates for people. With more flexible commissioning, and our focus on working purposefully, people we support have far greater choice and control.”

Elizabeth Deeves, Head of Integrated Commissioning for Learning Disability and Physical Disability at at Bexley Council, comments:

“The London Borough of Bexley takes pride in our Individual Service Fund offer, which was co-produced with providers, clients and families. We feel our journey to providing more choice and control is underway and now have more people requesting this option than we have providers!”

TLAP’s Making it Real approach can help organisations get better at personalisation by setting out what good care and support looks like.



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