We asked PossAbilities for the following contribution to our newsletter, following ARC PossEngland Director Lisa’s recent visit. We think their impressively personalised service is worth sharing!

It sounds like the trailer for a new Disney movie – ‘A place where anything is possible’ – and at times we feel like we are living in a land somewhere between Dr. Doolittle and The Wizard of Oz.

It all started when we took the momentous decision to ‘follow the yellow brick road’ and ‘spin-out’ from Rochdale Council to become a fully fledged independent social enterprise. We support people primarily with learning disabilities, young people leaving care and people with dementia. We called ourselves PossAbilities. That was two years ago.

Life on the ‘outside’ has been a revelation. We don’t have any complicated mission statements or anything like that – just a set of simple values that everyone can remember, and ask themselves everyday if they have been able to live them. We refuse to use jargon or big words when simple Plain English will do just fine. We’ve set out to be entrepreneurial. We’ve been seizing opportunity and taking a few risks. What’s amazing is that these simple things seem to have come together in a way that none of us could have predicted, with unimagined benefits for the people we support; our staff; and our status as a social business.

We did one other thing that helped to set the tone. We just decided to try to be World Class at whatever we do. Why be satisfied with being average or just good? It’s made a difference to the way we think and act. Here are some of the things we’ve done recently: –

  • We thought it would be great to turn an acre of land into a Wellbeing Garden and Pet Farm. We thought, if only we could get ten or twenty thousand that should do it. Then we started to think World Class. We had an architect’s design done which when costed came to £150,000. That could have been the end of it. Yet this is a place where anything is possible so we raised the money from ASDA, Viridor Credits and some of our own resources. How many Head Offices have pigs, goats, chipmunks, chickens, geese, tanukis, rabbits and so on? That’s where the Dr Doolittle bit comes in.
  • When CQC inspected a bunch of our services in October last year we were rated “Outstanding’, a rating given to only 1% of those inspected.
  • When The Big Lottery Fund wanted to expand the Homeshare concept to the North, we were awarded £267,000 to develop it in Greater Manchester.
  • We run a Shared Lives scheme, where vulnerable people live domestic settings with a family. The Cabinet Office awarded us funding to develop this idea for people with dementia and for people with a mental health issue.
  • We’ve brought in several innovations to make sure that we recognise and appreciate our staff. The ‘Duvet Day’ gives an extra paid days leave to anyone who goes a whole year without sickness; Every member of staff gets enrolled into ‘Perkbox’ which gives them special discounts and a lot more; We have the annual PossAbilities Prom, where staff are nominated for ‘Posscars’; and the frontline challenge rewards people who achieve great outcomes.
  • After just eighteen months as an independent social enterprise we were awarded a £6.5 million contract by Halton MBC to provide supported living on their patch.

We’ve done loads of other things too, but we had better stop there. The point is that just by changing our attitudes, beliefs and behaviours we have become a “Yes we can” organisation and remarkable things are becoming part of our normal expectations.

We are good people who love what we do. We are PossAbilities – a place where anything is possible.

Rachel Law, Chief Executive, PossAbilities