As part of our drive to ensure the people we support are involved in directing Augusta Care, we have recently set up a Forum for Service Users. Lead by Director Suzanne Hollingworth, the third Forum has already taken place, and the initiative is already showing how valuable it will be for Augusta Care and the people we support. Forum members are already sharing what is working well in the Augusta Care service provision, and what they would like to change.
Goals of the Forum
- Quality control – members of the Forum have responded very positively to their involvement in service provision development. They are keen to provide feedback that will ensure they get person centred care and support that encourages more independence.
- Communication – at each meeting Forum members decide who is going to write the minutes. A member of the team supports them to complete the minutes. This information is then passed on to other people we support in various formats.
- Entertainment – a strong entertainment theme has developed! For example, a party for Christmas was high on the agenda. So we have already booked the Posh Suite and everyone is getting involved with organising the event. From ticket design, to music, DJ’s and bands, Forum members are making it happen.
Defining the future of Augusta Care
The concept is still in its early stages, but we can already see the benefits of having the people we support giving their input. Through the Forum, we are gathering essential information that can really direct how the company moves forward. It enables us to truly involve the people we support, and it encourages participation, so everybody are leading the service. Through this valuable feedback we are able to redesign policies, procedures and processes to ensure we are providing the people we support with what they need. This is not a gimmick, it is a philosophy that is happening right now, and is here to stay.
The feedback will also influence the direction we take with our team. The development of our staff in terms of selection, training and career progression, will be key to ensuring we really lead in true person centred care. Forums like this will have a significant impact on how we do things, but the changes we make will be good for the people we support, which is after all, why we are here.
Benefits of the Forum
The Forum gives us the opportunity to check if our policies and procedures are working for the people we support, as well as we think they are. This approach gives us an opportunity to reinforce our approaches and deal efficiently with any disparities. This will contribute to a high quality service for the people we support. Getting the involvement of Forum members through this two way process, is why we will continue with the Forum.
Key topics we have already explored together are support plan writing, safeguarding and whistle blowing. Initial feedback suggests we need to do more to ensure all the people we support feel they are truly involved in writing their own support plans. On a positive note, there has been lots of positive feedback around the fact that Forum members feel they have people they can go to if something is wrong, people they can confide in, and people they can ask for help with day to day things.
The Forum is also influencing what we look for in new staff. Forum members have shared the kind of people they want as support workers, so their feedback is influencing how, and who we recruit.
The Forum also provides an important social benefit. Some of the people who attend live on their own, and don’t often get the opportunity to interact with others, so the Forum plays a key social role. Some people who used to live together have met up again via the Forum, so it’s great to see old friendships reforming.
The Forum is open to anyone receiving our services. A core group of attendees has already developed. But people do, and are encouraged to dip in and out. Please just pop in whenever you want to bring something to our attention, or provide some feedback.
The Forum is held every four weeks, on a Tuesday afternoon. It starts at 13.00 hours and is held at Augusta Care, Toll Bar House, Shrewsbury Avenue, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE2 7BX.
Welcoming people with varying disabilities
The Forum is designed for people of varying disabilities. We have looked at:
- Communication – We are using different types of communication aids like Widgit, pictures, symbols and photographs.
- Lighting – we have ensured we can change the lighting to accommodate varying sensitivities to light.
- Catering – put simply, we accommodate as many dietary requirements as required!
- Familiarity – to ensure consistency, the forum is on a Tuesday afternoon, every four weeks, rather than using a changeable pattern, like every first or last Tuesday of the month.
- Transport – transport is arranged for those who want to come along and need support with travel.
- Seating arrangements – following feedback, seating arrangements have been changed to a more relaxed style, to ensure everyone was comfortable and able to attend.
- Reminders – a member of the team phones everyone up the day before the Forum. This helps ensure everyone is comfortable attending, and that they can get any outstanding work for the Forum completed.
Due to the success of the Forum, new Forums are being developed. These are:
- A Staff Forum
- An Autism Steering Group
- Health and safety champions
What do you think about the Forums? Can you think of any other Forums that would be useful?