Genuinely challenging the system
In my opinion the strength of Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) is its partnership approach, people working together as positive exemplars of personalised, community based support. Individuals, families, providers, local and central government, commissioners, regulators and other improvement agencies coming together as equal partners to demand, shape and celebrate genuine choice and control for people with disabilities.
Such a collaborative approach really matters and never more so than at a time when money is tighter and there is a natural propensity to 'batten down the hatches' and hold firm to our bit of the system that validates discrete roles and organisations. Collaboration the TLAP way is characterised by genuinely challenging the whole system, holding each other to account to be as ambitious as possible in the drive to personalisation and offering practical and expert support to deliver on agreed priorities. This is what makes TLAP special - therefore I believe that a top priority for TLAP going forward must be to remain as focussed and committed to the 'how' of facilitating change, as it does on the what.
Whether you choose to put integration in the 'too hard box' or 'a pipe dream' it's a 'must and can do' if people using services are to have genuine control. Until people with disabilities, with quality advocacy support as required, are able to determine and purchase the support they need [whether that be health, social care, housing related] they aren't genuinely in control. TLAP worked with National Voices on developing a really helpful person-centred 'narrative' on integration. There are also a number of recently selected pioneers in areas across the country seeking to lead the way in taking forward integration. TLAP is very well placed to be the conduit for gathering experience and learning - good and bad on integration - to be the critical friend that uses the strength and diversity of its partners to share learning, develop resources and practical support to genuinely further integration.
As a provider I have seen first hand the really big difference building community connections and capacity can have on the lives of individuals and families. People making new connections and friends, finding purpose and being valued for their contributions. While TLAP has already done some great work with partners developing ideas and resources to build community capacity, TLAP must be relentless in this regard - the benefits to individuals, families and communities, as well as to the public purse are increasingly persuasive. I would go so far as to say it is our duty as passionate believers in the strength of people with disabilities to continue this as a top priority for TLAP going forward.
Without doubt the current challenges are grave, people with personal budgets and social care providers across the country are facing continuing and sadly often arbitrary cuts to funding. While it's impossible to ignore the real concern that this brings I am optimistic that we can use TLAP's collective strength to evidence the high quality outcomes achieved by integrated, personalised and community based support. In fact we can't afford not too.