Ruth Gorman IASHow can we ensure people with learning disabilities get a life, not a service? asks Ruth Gorman from Imagine, Act, Succeed (IAS)

Sometimes, great ideas and change can begin with just an offhand conversation. This was certainly the case with a pilot programme for a different model of social care service that IAS has been implementing with Oldham Council recently.

The idea came out of a conversation I had with Paul Cassidy, adult services director at Oldham Council, about a year ago. We were discussing the extreme pressures on adult social care funding and how some radical thinking was needed to prevent a conveyor belt of long-term and increasingly paid support for people, which not only risked escalating expenditure, but also increasing the social exclusion of those individuals.

I felt that if paid support could, in some scenarios, be replaced by richer, natural and more sustainable support networks and community connections we could enable people to enjoy a better life. Person-centred thinking was central to this approach and as an organisation IAS has a deeply rooted person-centred ethos but it has been beneficial to shake up our reablement thinking using the principles of ‘just enough support’.

Cassidy liked the idea and, cutting a long story short, Oldham Council gave IAS a sum of money to cover training and the initial six months running of a pilot, called the New Reablement Journey.

It’s a small service, which I believe is a factor in its success as we can be swift and flexible in our decision making, and supports between 10 and 12 people at any given time. Each person is taken through a high-level reablement pathway and their weekly progress is recorded on a wall chart, which helps us keep track of outcomes and ensure that support is provided on a needs-led basis. Each person’s story is written up and includes the reason for referral and the outcome.

Some of the positive results and case studies can be read here: http://www.imagineactandsucceed.co.uk/Networks/Central/News/Implementing-the-New-Reablement-Journey.aspx

I believe our results demonstrate that by taking an approach to supporting adults with a learning disability which focuses on building independence and confidence and puts a much greater focus on community-based and natural supports and seeks to secure results in a short time frame we have created a “win, win, win”. Individuals are supported to choose options that sustain their own dreams and aspirations, families remain active partners in their journeys and the council benefits from shared learning and the ability to target limited resources where they are most needed.

Looking to the future, I hope we will be able to extend this new way of thinking to other councils and maybe even encourage them to consider earlier short-term intervention to pre-empt the crisis that traditionally prompts reablement support.

About the author

Ruth Gorman is chief executive of IAS, a charity supporting people with learning disabilities in the northwest of England.