During my visit to ARC England member Positive Support For You (PSFY), which was recently awarded an outstanding rating by the CQC, I met CEO Dave Barras and his team at their Middlesbrough office where we chatted about the work of the Building the Right Support Delivery Board.
This discussion led naturally into a conversation about the history of Transforming Care and the difficulties we seem to have converting into action the very many words that have been spoken about the need to support people to move out of hospital settings and to live in their own homes.
Positive Support For You is an organisation that has deliberately focused its efforts on providing people with the highly bespoke and individual support they need and want, rather than on simply becoming a bigger organisation and working with more and more people. The reasons for this approach and the values that underpin those reasons showed clearly in the discussions I had with all the staff I met, including the Head of Operations Catriona Macdonald, Positive Behaviour Support Manager Francesca Macdonald and the Head of Finance Debi Lowrie.
Where it showed up most though was when I met J, who is supported by PSFY, as she told me about the huge number and range of activities she is involved with every day.
J explained she likes to keep herself busy and I formed the impression that this is in part, as for many of us, how she self-manages her mental health needs.
As she talked enthusiastically about the things she is doing, I saw image upon image in J’s photo album and the organisation Facebook pages showing her at the bowling alley, the zoo, shopping, having a coffee, eating out at the pub and enjoying the company of her friends.
Then, entirely out of the blue, J mentioned the hospital she was detained in before Positive Support For You helped her to live in her own home with her cat. When she described this experience, I was genuinely shocked that someone with J’s energy and zest for life could possibly have spent many years in an institution in which none of the things that interest and excite her are available, and in which she was not allowed to express herself, to show her amazing personality or to undertake the huge amount of travelling around her local area that she so enjoys.
When J left (she could only spare me a short amount of time because she was busy doing other things), Dave and his team shared with me more about J’s time in hospital than she had chosen to and I found the restrictions that had been placed on her impossible to square with the expressive, busy, articulate and self-aware woman whose personality had been filling the whole room until she left.
As I said to Dave, not only do we know ‘what good looks like’ (the stated aim of the Building the Right Support Delivery Board, part of the Government’s Action Plan), we also know it is incredibly simple to achieve, because it’s just about treating people with a learning disability with the same compassion and humanity that we all want and need in our lives.
It is therefore excellent news that the What Good Looks Like report produced by the Building the Right Support Delivery Board (of which ARC England is a part) says exactly this. The report also honestly states very clearly that it contains nothing new… we just need to get on and provide compassionate care and support for people with a learning disability, autism or both that is centred around their needs and wants.