A people-led approach to support planning

Simon Stockton, co-director of Groundswell Partnership, blogs here about the importance of a people-led approach to support planning and introduces Groundswell's new report - Empower and Enable.

Last year I co-wrote a paper for Think Local, Act Personal (TLAP) with Helen Sanderson called Rethinking Support Planning - which explored some of the reasons behind why support planning was not working for people and offered some suggestions for making the process more engaging and less resource intensive. As part of that work we developed a model which we called "Empower and Enable" to illustrate how it was possible to reorientate support planning to become something which was simple and engaging and which people themselves could be encouraged and supported to lead. We were under no illusions that to make this approach work would require councils to make a commitment to a different way of working promote flexibility and make sign off processes simple concentrating on how people would aim to meet high level outcomes.

Given the economic pressures that local government is experiencing it shouldn't come as a surprise then that many councils have struggled to follow some of the advice and see through changes which may appear to loosen the tight grip many feel is necessary to keep a hold of ever tightening budgets.

However, despite these challenges, a number of organisations, including councils, social enterprises and user led organisations have picked up these ideas and started to run with them. Our new publication Empower and Enable - A people led approach to support planning reflects some of this work looking at how people in Derby City, in Shrewsbury, Manchester and Lancashire amongst others have taken steps to make such an approach part of their core business.

Behind all these endeavours is a strong belief that if support planning is working well for people it should feel both simple and meaningful and put people at the heart of the process.

Of course this is true but on its own it would not be enough in such tough times for these ideas to gain traction. However there is another vital benefit - more people doing their own planning and more people using peer support instead of professional support also means potential savings and potentially quite significant savings. Lancashire is aiming to increase the number of people leading their own planning by 23% over the coming two years. Early indications from People 2 People in Shrewsbury who have already started to embed this approach suggest that support plans are up to 50% more cost effective as people increasingly lead their own planning.

Although it's still early days to read too much into this, the benefits of reorientating support planning in this way look to stack up very well by any estimation and offer some significant hope that this may be one area where we could see some real progress over the coming year.  Let's hope so! Last year's POET survey gave us a very clear message that the process of getting and using a personal budget was all too often confusing stressful and disempowering for people with support needs and for carers. Here it seems we have an opportunity to do something about that which involves doing less and simply working differently.

Simon Stockton

Co-director Groundswell Partnership

Empower and Enable can de downloaded from the Groundswell Partnership website.


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Last Updated : 04 July 2012. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.