Setting the pace in Derby

Promote Ability Community Enterprise, known as p.a.c.e, is a community interest company set up by Debbie Jones and Craig Fletcher.  Through their 23 years of experience of front line work for the City Council and nine years working with voluntary and community organisations they felt there was a gap in services for disabled people to improve their health and quality of life choices.

From the seed of the idea, developed whilst sitting in the pub, along with donations, a helpful benefactor, support from friends, family and the community and a lot of hard work they now have a centre, with a gym, workshop and café.  They have over 20 clients per week, both self-funders or personal budget holders who buy assistance with support planning, life coaching, woodwork tuition and gym instruction from the three full time workers. Also their café is open to the public.

In the future they are eager to move towards rehabilitation services and are looking to work with local health services to develop preventative and re-enablement support. Find out more about them at:

Local Area Coordination

How can we kick start radical change in a care and support system which is suddenly starved of money? Perhaps an equally valid question is, “How can we not?” This second question can only be asked if we genuinely believe that there are ways for communities to face their challenges which aren’t entirely reliant upon services.

Local Area Coordination (LAC) is now at the core of care and support in Australia, after twenty years of development and numerous evaluations. Ralph Broad, who has worked in Australia and the UK remarks upon the fact that outcomes in Western Australia are better than those in the UK, despite the fact that even a recession-hit UK is still better resourced than Western Australia has ever been. LAC is a way of recognising that people are not passive “clients”, “service users” or “customers” of a social care system. It puts professionals in new roles: working alongside people. Local Area Coordinators in each small locality have an open door, access to information and small amounts of funding, but most importantly a remit to nurture local solutions and keep people strong. They help people to access services where they are the only option, but they see services as the last thing to consider, not the first.

LAC is not an initiative to ‘drop in to’ the existing system, with its preoccupation with gatekeeping services for those deemed needy and vulnerable enough to qualify. It is best used as a way to transform the whole system, starting with Continue reading

User-led organisations: endangered species?

I do my best to remain optimistic during these too-frequently grim times. One of the determining factors of what the sector achieves on much diminished resources, will be what we continued to believe was possible. Our public finances perhaps haven’t been this bad since about 1948. But in that year our grandparents looked around at the post-war wreckage and decided that a National Health Service was possible.

Of course, those were the days of when big national infrastructures were created from Whitehall (casual observers may be surprised to hear that the current NHS Bill, with its thousand amendments, is an example of ‘bottom up’ change). Social care has been re-shaped to give more control at the level of the council, the community and the individual.

So User-Led Organisations (ULOs) should be a key part of ‘personalising’ social care. After all, they embody the idea of individuals who use services being in control, and their work is often about people having a voice in local decisions, or being able to shape their own care package. They are also typically small and local, forming a bridge between councils and the people who are most affected by their decisions.

So I couldn’t help my heart sinking when, on the same day, I heard about two areas which were planning sweeping cuts to their ULOs. Had those areas completely misunderstood the basics of personalisation? Apparently not: at least one was an area with leaders who are advocates of personalisation. So what was going on?

It’s always risky to comment on local changes from a distance, but my impression is Continue reading

Are Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) the Next Small Thing (NST)

I sometimes think we need a name for those ideas which, whilst they are not necessarily nonsense, get blown up on rather shaky evidence, into the next big thing. They are usually ideas that:

  • have a cool-sounding, or failing that mystifying name, usually reduced to an acronym
  • apparently have the potential to solve a dizzying range of problems
  • are a neat fit with the prevailing political ideology of the day
  • have found an articulate advocate or two
  • have shaky or limited evidence, and often holes that look bigger the closer you look…

Social Impact Bonds (SIBS) tick all of those boxes. The idea of SIBs is that someone, ideally a private sector investor or even hedge fund, puts up some money to invest in a promising new approach to, say, reducing re-offending, or truancy, or anti-social behavoiur. If the approach works, it generates some savings to the local council, NHS or government. Crime costs the country, so reducing re-offending cuts those costs. The investor gets paid a return on their investment from those savings. The more effective the approach, the bigger the payment. If the approach fails, the investor doesn’t get paid, so it’s the investor who has found the money and taken the risk, not the government. A win all round. Neat.

Here’s where the holes appear. Continue reading

User-led brokerage

Here’s a guest blog from Simon Taylor (,  who supports our micro-enterprise members:

“It’s sometimes hard to stay positive about the changes in social care, but meeting Becky Daykin from Notts Independent Living Consultancy ensures that you will. Despite the challenges, along with her business partner Sarah Moakes, Becky has stepped from the world of social work to be a part of the practical changes ensuring personalisation can offer real choice.

Together they now run a new micro-enterprise which combines their thirteen years of experience to assist people in setting up and manage Direct Payments. They offer support and advice on being an employer, recruitment, setting up payroll and employment contracts etc. They also offer training for personal assistants, organisations and corporate businesses about disability, equality and deaf awareness. All their staff are disabled and receive either Direct Payments, a Personal Budget or Disabled Students Allowance.

Becky herself is Deaf.  Others often see this as a barrier but it is not the barrier she is most concerned about when she speaks of her experience in running her business, where the real struggle is with Local Authorities to make better use of micro-enterprises in delivering small local services.

She commented, “Too often Deaf People are seen as not able to manage their own budgets and are directed by the social work professionals towards managed budgets Continue reading

A new Trustee for Shared Lives Plus

Richard Jones, Director of Lancashire’s Adult Services and our newest Trustee, says that when he thinks of Shared Lives, he thinks of a young man who used to live in services and now lives with a family and as a result he is loved and can give love. He matters and can contribute to family life. He is part of that family’s holidays, weddings and funerals. He has the opportunity to feel responsible for those around him, not just reliant on them.

We had our board and team planning day this week. It was fantastic to be part of a group of people bringing the same passion, but from very different viewpoints, to thinking about Shared Lives and other small community approaches to care and support. Part of the thinking was about how we ensured that Shared Lives and micro-enterprises became much better understood. We decided that our offer was about citizens, communities and costs: our members help people to become citizens, who can contribute in all kinds of ways, as well as receive great support. Our members build upon relationships and communities. And doing this isn’t more expensive than traditional care: increasing numbers of areas are using it as a way of bringing down costs whilst helping people to live better lives.

Some of the discussion was about the place of Shared Lives and micro-enterprises within the personalisation reforms (which I’ve written about a number of times below).

 I’m not sure it’s a coincidence that we latched onto personal budgets as the key driver for personalisation at a time when we are all more consumerist than we’ve ever been. And I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the rise of consumerism has been accompanied by a rise in loneliness and isolation Continue reading

Monthly bulletin

Here’s the latest bulletin from Shared Lives Plus:

NAAPS UK re-launches as Shared Lives Plus

For over 20 years NAAPS has been the UK body for Shared Lives (originally known as Adult Placement) and latterly for Homeshare and very small ‘micro-enterprises’ in social care. At a reception on the eve of our sold-out UK conference in Cardiff, we re-launched as Shared Lives Plus.

We are looking forward to the next era of our work and are currently surveying our members to identify their achievements and the difference Shared Lives makes to those who use it.  The survey can be filled in on-line here.

The conference was co-chaired by Alex Tanner, who spoke eloquently about his experience of using Shared Lives, and by Simon Burch, Director of Social Services for Monmouthshire. Keynote speakers were Welsh Government Deputy Minister Gwenda Thomas and Dame Philippa Russell, Chair of the Standing Commission on Carers, who said, “I believe Shared Lives will be the key social care development of the next decade.”

A map for micro-enterprises

Shared Lives Plus has launched a ‘map’ setting out the results of intensive work carried out by Shared Lives Plus, Community Catalysts, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Department of Health. Following a commitment in the government’s Growth Review, officials have worked with their counterparts in a number of government departments and arms-length bodies to tackle some key red tape issues affecting the smallest and most creative social care enterprises.

The map outlines significant reductions in red tape, including new guidance which makes clear that social care workers who use their own cars as part of their support to disabled and older people should be freed from the unnecessary and costly process of being licensed as minicabs.

The map also sets out the aspiration to ensure that the highest level Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks should in future become available to thousands of self-employed care workers and also provides new clarity on tax, employment law and registration issues for people who take cash Direct Payments in lieu of social care services.  You can view the map here. Continue reading

Red tape cut for care and support services

You spend a lot more time lobbying for change than seeing it in our line of work, so today’s new guidance from the Department of Transport, which should make it much easier for care and support services who transport people as part of their wider work, is a rare victory. We’ve been campaigning on this issue for years. Here’s an example of why it matters:

Companions is a micro-domiciliary care service established to provide consistent, responsive and flexible care for a small group of older people, who pay for the service from personal budgets or their own money. The providers consulted widely with potential customers before setting up the service. These older people found it difficult to use public transport and were essentially confined to their homes, isolated and lonely. Top of their ‘wish list’ was help to go out into the community and to meet their friends. Companions designed a service which included using their own cars to take people out but were told that they would have to be licensed as private hire vehicles. The costs and complexity of obtaining a licence were insurmountable, so they have, until now, not been able to provide the service most desired by their customers.

The new guidance takes a pragmatic approach to clarifying a complex area of law, from which other departments could learn. This change may seem dry and technical, but it will result in many disabled and older people being able to get out of their houses for the first time in years.

This will be one of the important regulatory changes highlighted in the new ‘map’ for micro-enterprises which NAAPS UK is developing with support from government and which will be published in the Autumn. You can find out more on the news page at



Hits and myths

Thanks for all the great responses to my blog on the myths of personalisation (many of them members of the excellent ‘Personalisation Group to revolutionise social care’on the networking site, LinkedIn). I was told about an example of one of the myths in action today: a council who had decided that direct payments were now the only way a certain group of people could access support, thus excluding them from the excellent local Shared Lives service, which is provided directly (‘in-house’) by the council (and you can’t use Direct Payments to buy an in-house service). Direct Payments as a way to limit choice – well done guys.

The solution to this is easy – people can use a personal budget to purchase the in-house service, then take anything left over in their budget as a Direct Payment, if they want to purchase something else. But I suspect whoever made this rule has an eye on the government drive (they don’t call them targets any more!) to increase Direct Payment take-up. I wonder if there has ever been a target set, which doesn’t encourage someone, somewhere to do the opposite thing to that which the target setter intended.

Anyway, thanks to your comments,  I can add to my list of six myths. Continue reading

Pound shop provides recession-proof employment

People often say that it is much harder to achieve genuine employment for people with learning disabilities in times of recession and high unemployment. One Shared Lives carer has turned the recession to his advantage in setting up a recession-proof business which aims to provide real employment opportunities.

Mitch Morgan is an experienced market trader and entrepreneur who became a Shared Lives carer, supporting adults with learning disabilities in Shropshire. Mitch says, “I realised how hard it was for these adults to get work placements so I had the idea of setting up a pound shop business on the market because it is the easiest type of business to run with no need to give change or take cheques or credit cards,” Mitch said.

Mitch Morgan has set up a pound shop business on Wellington Market in Telford, Shropshire, which is providing work placements for six adults. The shop was opened by the Mayor and has proved popular with the people who work there, other traders and the general public. Mencap have also been very supportive. Mitch says, “The most important part is social interaction and breaking down barriers. We encourage people to talk to customers. In a big supermarket, you don’t talk to the customers, but here we do.”

Mitch and employee in the Pound Shop