Aisling Duffy CertitudeIn this guest blog, Aisling Duffy from service provider Certitude talks about the need to not just listen to carers, but to support them too.

As social care providers, if we want to support individuals with learning disabilities to have the best life possible, we have to make sure we are getting it right for the whole family. If we support carers - as well as listen to them - we are more likely to develop a successful support package that works for everyone.

In Carer’s Week, it’s good to acknowledge that families and carers are the real experts when it comes to the supporting people with learning disabilities; and it’s important that we build in mechanisms which ensure their voice is heard. An ‘open door’ policy and promises to listen are all very well but to be truly effective there must be a systematic way of capturing the knowledge and expertise of carers to ensure this feeds into the planning process. 

We are currently piloting Individual Service Funds throughout Certitude and have found person-centred practices such as Planning Live, which brings together all the important people in an individual’s life for a brainstorming planning session, to be an excellent way of doing this.

There are other person-centred practices that could be applied to carers. One Page Profiles are a well-recognised tool for establishing the needs and wants of an individual with learning disabilities but we plan to roll this tool out for families and carers too. Understanding how carers would like to be treated, what they are looking for from the support we provide and how we can all work together as a team could really make a difference.

But we have to do more for carers than just listen, they also need our support. Experience suggests that while carers do appreciate longer periods of time off, for example through respite holidays for people with learning disabilities, it is often the opportunity to get together with other carers that is the most appreciated kind of break.

Certitude’s My Breaks service shows that specific activities for carers, such as regular monthly meetings and practical and therapeutic activities including hikes and barbeques are much appreciated. The chance to meet up with people experiencing similar issues and to share problems and stories offers a simple, but effective, form of support. Family Forums also present an essential outlet for carers to express their concerns and are a useful way for providers like us to listen and learn. They are also an opportunity to show carers that their views are important, respected and heard.

Last year, we used the Working Together for Change process to learn from families of young children with disabilities – understanding what families experience before they start using adult services can only help us provide better support based on what people actually want and need.

The best support happens when an individual is surrounded by a team of supporters; as service providers we are part of that team, working in partnership alongside family, friends and carers.

Aisling Duffy is chief executive of service provider Certitude.