In tough times we need something to aspire to
Blog by Shahana Ramsden Making it Real project co-ordinator, co-production and equalities lead for Think Local Act Personal.
The greatest asset of Making it Real - the markers of progress towards personalisation and community-based support - is that they were co-produced by people who use services, carers and citizens. These are people who understand the complexity of creating genuine personalised support which focuses on a person's whole life. They have set out what they expect to see, feel and experience if personalisation is working well.
At our recent National Co-production Advisory group meeting, one member asked whether the fact that people are losing their security and experiencing cuts to their care packages could risk undermining the delivery of Making it Real. Immediately another group member made the point that Making it Real is even more important in this context because, as they said, "in tough times, we have to have something to aspire to". The outcomes highlighted within the document's 26 "I" statements constantly remind us about what we are striving to achieve.
"I have access to a range of support that helps me to live the life I want
and remain a contributing member of my community."
The discussion continued with the group agreeing that Making it Real is for everyone - and with the sign up of so many provider organisations and local authorities - the programme gives us hope for the future.
In the words of another member of the group:
"When resources are tight, we can use Making it Real as a lever for change because it requires the change in social care to be co-produced with people, so that it at least gets people a seat around the decision making table. It also creates a more equal relationship between people who use services and providers of care and support".
In the very early stages of the programme development, I worked with six "test sites" (providers, local authorities and third sector organisations) to think through how Making it Real could develop. This is so we can launch the process live and online in the Spring. We now have 18 test sites who are working with us to ensure that roll out of Making it Real is carefully thought through. I work on the basis that when people generate their own solutions and have ownership of the change, outcomes are likely to be better received and more sustainable.
I am constantly reminded of how innovative the Making it Real tests sites are prepared to be and how some simple solutions can make a huge difference. For example, last week I met a local authority test site and wondered if their biggest challenge would be to ensure that people who use services, carers and citizens are able to access and feedback on progress against their three Making it Real priorities. They commented that in an environment where people can broadcast their opinions through Twitter, email, and complaints and compliments cards, they receive feedback every day. However, they confirmed that they are developing a two-way communication channel for Making it Real, so that people can look at the three Making it Real priorities - which will be shared publicly on our website and theirs - and feedback directly to policy leads about their progress. The overall aim is to maintain pressure and momentum towards making changes that result in real positive outcomes in people's lives.
In discussions with a user-led organisation test site, where I was anxious about how organisations can make Making it Real materials fully accessible on tight budgets, I was shown their annual report which is written in plain English, but has an easy read and photo summary on each page. This provides a positive model for organisations who wish to ensure their action plans can be read and understood by a wide range of people.
Another local authority test site is looking at how they can build Making it Real principles into their local accounts and a residential care provider is planning to co-produce Making it Real audit, with people who have dementia.
We are also working with a number of different types of providers. I am confident that the combined knowledge of such a diverse range of organisations, will create a menu of solutions that people can adapt as they come on board with Making it Real.
On a personal level, it is important to me that we model the values of Making it Real in the way we deliver the programme through the Think Local Act Personal Partnership.
The National Co-production Advisory Group symbolises these values in the way we work. As a group we come together for many reasons - some of us get involved in co- production because we know the social care system has to change and if we don't speak up for improvements we wonder who else will. Others, including myself benefit from the mutually encouraging environment, where everyone has an equal say, and where we feel supported - particularly during those weeks when we feel we have not been heard.
The official registration pages for organisations who wish to receive information about MIR is now live.
After further testing over the next few weeks, the full "roll out" of Making it Real's planning and reporting web based system will be ready for Spring 2012.
Shahana Ramsden is the Making it Real Project Co-ordinator, Co-production and Equalities lead for Think Local Act Personal. She has previously been employed as User Engagement Manager for Social Care Policy within the Department of Health, completed a secondment as joint Chief Executive of a User Led Organisation and was employed as joint Director of the Positively Diverse programme (a change management and equalities programme) within the NHS.
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