Let’s NOT Pretend

Every week our team spends time with self-advocates, family members, paid supporters, organisational managers and leaders.

Every week, we hear people talk about their concern in relation to the reducing financial resources, the struggle with, and injustice of, block tendering, commissioners imposing ‘rules’ that limit any sense of individuality, of support teams not having heard of Personal Budgets (and loving the idea when they do hear about it!), of families feeling excluded.  You can imagine how the list goes on.

So…why write about this?  It could sound like we are going to dwell on how tough things are, to simply list concerns.  That’s not what this is about…honestly.

In reality, when we create space for people to be open and honest, when we spend time truly listening to people, what we actually hear, feel and see is hundreds of people who are angry, people who are upset and worried for the future AND wanting to do something about it, just not sure how.  People who don’t want to accept the injustices they and those they love and support are experiencing.  People who want to figure out how they can make the most of the people, time and resources available, people who want to be heard, to be included in figuring out the way forward.   Members of our Creating Positive Cultures Network recently ended a workshop with the following message,’ Let’s not pretend.  Let’s think of a new way and be brave enough to try it!’.


Whilst this may sound strange, we find people expressing this concern, this dissatisfaction reassuring.  John O’Brien summed it up perfectly for us during a recent webinar.  When asked for advice about how to deal with the current reality of dwindling resources and the impact on the lives of those supported John said, ‘I wish I knew the answer, but we may sadly be on the verge of proving that we absolutely can’t do it and if we can’t do it the lesson from the institution years is ‘let’s not pretend we are.’


Much of our time recently has been spent with support staff, who tell us they feel excluded from the creative thinking and planning processes, that they are simply ‘told’ what will be happening.  Many agencies are rightfully coproducing with people they support and families but often many support staff are still often excluded.

The majority of support staff we meet are NOT pretending things are good enough, they are wanting to ensure we don’t take steps back, that we remain focused on good, individually designed support for each person BUT they are struggling, they are getting tired.  Some great supporters are leaving as they don’t want to be part of the system offering poor support and some are just accepting the ‘as is’ BUT as we said above many want to be part of the resistance to bad practice and support!

You may know about our Inclusive Leadership Lab (click to get info for this years Lab) with Nan Carle.  Nan explains that ‘it’s important to recognise that “we are all part of a whole in wanting connection, regardless of who you are or what role you have”.  Exclusion can lead to mistrust and fear, which as Gary Hamel says can be ‘toxic to innovation and engagement’.  We must all find ways of listening to, engaging and valuing ALL stakeholders however tough times are!  Good support is about relationships.  The relationship between a person and their supporters is a crucial building block to a good ordinary life.

We work to support ongoing learning, connections and action.  Feedback from teams suggests that these approaches, the not being ‘lectured’ to, the not simply being give ‘tools’ to use, the honest listening, engaging and creating together really makes a difference.

Here are some the ways we work with teams which they have said they value.  We:

– provide information and stories to show what’s possible.  To encourage people to see beyond the ‘as is’ and believe in possibilities
– work with teams to appreciate what’s working well, what makes the good stuff happen and figure out how to grow the good stuff
– support all to look  beyond just paid support.  To value and support all in their relationships with family friends and community
– facilitate solution circles and other ways of working with teams so they create their own solutions
– stay in touch via Facebook and e-mail (sallyw@paradigm-uk.org) to offer support workers a connection beyond their employing agency and we share information to connect people, ideas and -action! (We are working on a network to strengthen this.)
– encourage all to keep asking ‘why’.  Why do we have all the paperwork that takes away from our time with a person?  Why do the rota’s work this way?  Why do risk assessments work this way?
– encourage support staff to seek out their Managers and seek answers in response to their ‘Why’ questions, in an open and non-confrontational way. To recognise the challenges we all face and to ask HOW they can play a part in changing some of the things that just don’t make sense.
– share some of the principles for Managing Emotional Well-Being from our Inclusive Leadership Lab, for example:

  1.     Don’t sweat about the small stuff
  2.     Be compassionate, see the situation from the other persons perspective
  3.     Listen and do everything you can to include ALL people
  4.     Make it your mission to work hard on relationships building even in the face of conflict and tension
  5.     Never sit on the fence when you know something is not right, act
  6.     Breath!

Let’s NOT pretend.  Let’s listen to each other, learn and act together.

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