People, Passion, Potential

At the end of November ARC attended the 25th Anniversary Conference of Community Integrated Care in Manchester and, along with a packed house of over 200 staff, invited guests and partners, heard a collection of highly talented and well respected speakers deliver a moving and inspirational collection of presentations focussed on people, passion and potential.

Following a welcome by Chief Executive, Neil Matthewman, proceedings were opened with a grand unveiling of the organisation’s rebrand in which Cath Murray-Howard, Deputy Chief Executive, took us on a very impressive animated journey into the organisation’s new visual identity and declaration of purpose in which ‘people, passion and potential’ are both literally and creatively at the heart of the charity’s vision, reflecting their newly launched strategy and a new era of ideas and approaches.

People

Dr. Ann Johnson seaking about dementiaFirst speaker to take centre stage was Dr. Ann Johnson, MBE, Ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Ann was diagnosed with early onset dementia at the age of 52, describing it as “sledgehammer… but not the end of life”. Relating how dementia had affected her life Ann led us through some of the practical solutions she had employed to overcome the problems the condition had presented in the different walks of her life, including buying a Dictaphone for recalling her thoughts, a talking watch to help her with time management and subscription to the conatct4me emergency card scheme in case she lost her way. Buoyed by her faith, supported by her friends and driven by love of public speaking Ann has vowed to face the challenges dementia has thrown at her and not to run scared and she urged her audience to do the same . “Dementia is just a word”, she proclaimed, and the people suffering from it are just, “normal people with a problem”.

Following Ann was Shaun Webster from Change, the human rights organisation led by disabled people, who has campaigned for the self-advocacy for people with a learning disability across the UK and Europe. Shaun reiterated the need for people with a learning disability not to be pre-judged or excluded, but to be viewed and treated equally by society, to be included in communities and to be afforded the same opportunities as everyone else. To illustrate what a difference being allowed to step on the ‘Ladder of Power’ could achieve, Shaun described how working for Change and living independently had transformed his life from a bad point to a “good place now”.

Dean Beadle speaking about AspergersDean Beadle, the next speaker, delivered an immensely engaging and amusing talk on his experiences of living with Asperger’s Syndrome and – in his own words – “finally putting to bed the myth that people with autism don’t have a sense of humour”. Dean, a journalist and writer, regaled us with his colourful accounts of on-line dating (“online dating changed my life”), dealing with his obsessive interests (currently Toyah Wilcox and Doctor Who) and living with his partner, all whilst still managing to eloquently drive home the underlying message from the first part of the conference – that we need to, “start with the person and not the diagnosis”. Dean urged support workers to get to know the people they support and to see, “the person as the solution not the issue.”

Dr. David Sheard speaking abut what mattersPassion

Adding to the call for building better relationships between workers and those being supported was Dr. David Sheard, Founder of Dementia Care Matters, who gave what was undoubtedly the most emotionally charged presentation of the day – urging us to consider that what really ‘mattered’ in person-centred care was the need to be real and to be human. For David, the way forward into better person-centred care is to embrace emotional intelligence and jettison what he described as the “meaningless jingoism” of the past. Rather than presenting a false façade of detached professionalism and a pretence that “all is sorted”, David insisted organisations should discard their anxieties and focus instead their attentions on staff – allowing them the freedom and “permission to be human again”. David acknowledged that such journeys are seldom easy and that inherent to the process of becoming ‘relationship-focused’ was the need to meet our vulnerabilities head on. To prove this David took us on a powerful and captivating ride through his own life – sharing some of his most personal and intimate highs … and lows, and leaving few, if any, dry eyes in the house. By admitting and embracing our vulnerabilities and acknowledging those of others, David insisted, we can learn to understand each other and break down barriers so there is no more “them and us – Just us.” To become truly person-centred, David argued, Emotional Intelligence needs to be the “primary competence in all social care.”

Faced with the uneviable task of following David’s electric presentation, Paul Mcgee, inspirational speaker from SUMO (Shut Up, Move On) did a brilliant job of meeting the challenge – getting us to our feet, through to lunch on a wave of laughter and having us truly believing that we all are MAD – ‘Making A Difference’ that is! Acknowledging that the sector has gone through change and that change is a challenge, Paul outlined his belief in “Fruity thinking” and the need to step out of one’s comfort zone; to avoid the inner critic and the erroneous path to “faulty thinking”. By realising that the person we speak to the most is probably ourselves, Paul implored, that we should, “not forget the power of words when you speak to yourself.” Inspiring stuff.

Potential

Following lunch, we were treated to an unfamiliar but strangely relevant perspective on ‘customer care’, courtesy of a presentation from ASDA’s Retail Director, Mark Ibbotson who highlighted surprising parallels between the retail sector and social care, and addressed common concerns about ‘caring for the customer’ and employing the right staff with right attitude. We found out that the central tenets to ASDA’s operations include the need to gain and retain their customers’ trust (arguably eroded in the sector of late), to be accessible, to strive for excellence, to ensure the integrity of staff, to continually reassess and invest in the people they employ and to reinforce respect for the individual… beliefs surely echoed in the care sector.

Helen Sanderson speaking at Community Integrated Care's ConferenceContinuing with the theme of ensuring person-centred thinking is embedded into every level of an organisation, the next speaker, Helen Sanderson, gave two examples of how personalisation had been put into practice in two organisations, outlining how this involved three journeys – for the individual, the staff and the organisation. Reflecting messages from the earlier sessions, Helen, reinforced how, to be truly committed – “everyone is involved” and that change begins with management and staff and the, “expectation to bring one’s whole self to work”. Through adopting such tools as one page profiles for all staff  (“the Litmus test being the Chief Finance Officer”) and matching what matters to them with what is important to the people they support; the “cultural change” that is personalisaton can turn traditional support –“on its head” and transform lives.

Debra Moore speaking at Community Integrated Care's ConferenceUnderlining all that had been addressed previously Debra Moore from the Danshell Group, led us through the Independent review of Castlebeck Services following Winterboure View and laid out, in sometimes stark contrast to the findings, her belief in what good care should look like. Foremost amongst Debra’s insights was that, “values need to be lived and breathed” and should be engrained in the very anatomy of an organisation, at every level, from the top down. For example, inductions of staff, Debra argued, should be delivered not by managers but by executives who should state from day one how they wanted staff to be with people under their care. In another example – on reporting to the Board – Debra insisted that the first and most important question to be asked was not how the finances were doing but, “Is our Quality of Care good enough?”. Amongst her ‘top tips’ for providing a meaningful quality of care were: that organisations should continually restate their values; focus on what is important and acknowledge that safety and welfare is everyone’s business.

In the closing address, Neil Matthewman encouraged the audience to reflect on what they had seen and heard and, key to the purpose of the day, take it with them and “seize the opportunity to make a difference.”  Surely a message to us all – to know the people we work with, to embrace their passion and unlock the potential therein.

John Robinson
Marketing Manager
Association for Real Change