‘Person-centred care is ingrained in all of us’

David Wilson, chief executive of Robert Owen Communities, reflects on receiving an ‘outstanding’ rating from the CQC

Sophie Ward has been supported to gain employment as a hospitality assistant. Photo: Robert Own Communities

By David Wilson, chief executive of Robert Owen Communities

I can recall a time when everyone talked about person-centred planning but none of us fully understood that this was going to completely change the way services are delivered. Now it has.

It has been a long journey to embed personalisation into the way we work at Robert Owen Communities (ROC) but today it is ingrained in all of us. This is why our Domiciliary Care East Devon service has just been awarded an ‘outstanding’ rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC praised us for putting people at the heart of everything we do and ensuring the individuals we support achieve their desired goals, learn new skills and gain independence.

What went right?

One success story is that of 31-year-old, Sophie Ward, who has down syndrome. Sophie was supported by our ‘work 2 work’ employment pathway to gain the position of hospitality assistant at Schumacher College, Dartington. The programme is based on the premise that being included in the workplace is an achievable goal for everybody.

We helped the college to adapt the interview process to meet Sophie’s needs, which allowed her to give a presentation about her skills. We then conducted learning disability awareness training with the wider staff group and Sophie was carefully matched to her chef mentor, Ruth.

Ruth has a care background and her support has helped Sophie’s culinary skills to flourish. Sophie’s outcomes have also not just been about getting the job, her need for other support has reduced, she’s increased in confidence and gained more independence.

Our proactive approach and intervention work, including the use of assistive technology, has helped Sophie to succeed in achieving her goals. She is now hoping to progress to supported living and further develop her independence.

‘Do as you would be done by’

This is a lovely old-fashioned phrase but it also captures one of the messages that staff at the Domiciliary Care East Devon service have understood. The inspector, Marjorie O’Sullivan’, noted that ‘staff really treated people like they would like to be treated themselves’.

As managers, we take the time to visit staff in all our services across Devon and share experiences to champion personalisation. Staff spend a lot of time understanding the aspirations of the individuals they support and actively look for new opportunities to help them feel included.

This could be as simple as helping someone use public transport for the first time, or to progress to employment. But whatever goals people want to achieve, our staff are dedicated and passionate about making it happen.

To the future

When ROC began 25 years ago, ‘care in the community’ was a new phrase and an ideal for us folk in the charity sector to get excited about. Today, society has included people with learning disabilities and this gives us reason to believe in the ideal of employment and workplace inclusion. I wonder what that will look like in another 25 years’ time?

Robert Owen Communities is a charity offering residential and specialist care to people with learning disabilities in Devon and Cornwall and provider of the Domiciliary Care East Devon service.  



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