A guest blog from 0ur Director of Support and Development, Anna McEwen (@annasharedlives):
I was in a meeting with Your Voice Counts (a User Led Advocacy organisation in Gateshead) today and people with learning disabilities employed on the project to catch up on the work they’ve been doing to engage with people who use Shared Lives. It was so refreshing, and a reminder for me about why I’m doing the job that I do. We started with lunch – always a good start – and some informal chatting to get to know each other, before a fairly relaxed meeting to find out about the work so far on the project.
The project is engaging with people using Shared Lives in 3 areas, and so far has only good things to say about Shared Lives, and how positively people using the service talk about living as part of a family and feeling safe and supported. Interestingly, the majority of people using Shared Lives in the focus groups all talk about having a dog in the household which they really like (clearly we need to research the link between having a dog and being a Shared Lives carer!). People using Shared Lives really like getting together with other people living with a Shared Lives carer, whether that be for social evenings, going on a cruise (like the South Tyneside scheme) or focus groups and workshops. It seems that people living in Shared Lives arrangements value spending time with other like-minded people, and this could be a great way to engage and empower people to have a voice at local, regional and national levels.
Let’s face it, how many of us really enjoy sitting in meetings all day every day? I get that some meetings serve a purpose and are a necessity, but also reflect that sometimes meetings are for meetings’ sake and that often I feel really intimidated in meetings with people using big words and jargon, often for the sake of it. If that is how I feel (although I admit that maybe I should have done my degree in English rather than French), how then do people with learning disabilities or other people using social care services feel?
At a recent conference the jargon was crazy: “stratification”, “integrated capitated payments” “protecting systems resilience architecture” and “stepping back and seeing the quantum” to quote just a few examples. TLAP’s innovative jargon-busting fortune cookies usefully seek to try and explain some of the most commonly used current jargon, although my children didn’t quite get it when I brought them home from the conference!
Words give power, and using big long words can make people feel powerful, or intimidated, in equal measure. Maybe it’s because I spent so many years working with people with learning disabilities that I tend automatically to use plain English, but I found it really refreshing today to be with real people, talking about real stuff using words we could all understand. Wouldn’t it be nice if all meetings were so enjoyable…..
Shared lives is so much better now that carers can talk amongst each other, it was very isolating wheN we where not allowed to.