Dream ticket

Person-centred planning can be a nightmare for some, but the
open and enabling approach in Bolton is the stuff of dreams.
Graham Hopkins reports

Like many others making the transition to adulthood,
Shabani Kilasi – who has learning difficulties – has dreams for his
future. Well, he has one in particular. He wants to be Joey from
Friends. But is anything possible? Perhaps. After all, Shabani
attended a mainstream school and achieved five GCSE passes. And,
thanks to the approach to person-centred planning (PCP) in Bolton,
he can still dream. His PCP co-ordinators have been there for

“Shabani’s dreams were a bit more adventurous than others but that
wasn’t reason to dismiss them,” says co-ordinator John Hall. “We
knew a residential support worker who had had walk-on parts in
Emmerdale and Coronation Street. We got the
number of her casting agency. Shabani auditioned for a part in a C4
programme and got it. He might not be Joey yet but he’s on

PCP is an approach that helps service users express their needs,
wants and aspirations and looks for community services to make them
happen. PCP co-ordinator Kath Tebay says: “Our brief was to design
a PCP training package targeted at service co-ordinators.” Hall
adds: “These are the people who would get the plan going and make
sure that it was a living plan. And that work was happening daily
or weekly rather than being left to the usual six-monthly

They wrote a service co-ordinator’s workbook and a series of staff
resource packs on housing, leisure, transport, personal health,
sexual relationships, employment and retirement. Tebay says: “We’re
hoping to get the packs on to the council’s intranet. It will be
easier and cheaper to update than paper documents.

“We had the privilege of having some thinking time, which you don’t
always get in social services. We worked on a vision of how we saw
PCP happening in Bolton. We wanted it to be easy; we didn’t want to
create a load of paperwork and make it into another process. It’s
not a process – it’s a way of life.”

Hall agrees: “PCP is something we all do; it’s just that some
people need support to do it. We emphasise the need to encourage
people to use mainstream services.”

Over the next 18 months, a cross-section of 12 service users will
each link with a member of Bolton’s learning disability partnership
board, which oversees how services are planned and provided.

Hall says: “We want them to report the successes but more so the
barriers to what gets in the way of people using mainstream

“This is not to deny the need for specialist services, but for
people to use the specialist service and then go back to main
society just like we do. For example, if I had diabetes, I’d have
my blood taken every now and then, but I wouldn’t only live, work
or go on holiday with people who have diabetes.”

Often, well-meaning but suffocating attitudes get in the way, as
experienced by service user Debbie Sherwood.

She says: “I wanted to show my family that I had skills inside me
that I wasn’t learning at home. My mum did all the cooking and
washing. I did nothing. Mum didn’t want me going on the bus in case
I got run over or have my own money in case I lost it. Mum didn’t
want me to live on my own because of the way I am. I’m 24 and I
just felt I wanted my own life, that’s all.”

And she got it. Even her mother now sees her in a different light.
Indeed, Sherwood now lives with her partner, Paul. “Everyone told
me I was rushing in and to be careful,” she says. “People talk as
if you can’t make a mistake: but what’s the point of life if you
can’t make a mistake? We’re not asking for much. I’m not asking to
win the lottery. This is about me. This is my life.”

And, thanks to Bolton’s PCP approach, Sherwood too is living her


  • The vision for PCP was presented to the learning disability
    partnership board by service users. “Having them deliver the
    message really fired the board up and helped sell the vision,” says
    John Hall.
  • Believe in it and keep things simple. Kath Tebay says: “Don’t
    over-complicate things. Some people might try to turn PCP into
    rocket science, but it isn’t.”
  • Training needs to be continuous. Hall says: “We’ve done the
    ‘breadth’ training – raising awareness of PCP and the various PCP
    techniques. Our next big challenge is moving on to the ‘depth’
    training in the workplace to follow it through.”

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