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In my work, I am often asked, 'How can I involve the people we support in the work of providing care and support?' It is a legitimate question, sometimes brought on by the fact that care services in Scotland are graded, and participation and involvement are major elements in the assessments of grades, during formal inspections by the Care Inspectorate.
There are many ways to involve people, and good sources of advice on how to do it. At first though it is important to investigate why we should involve people. There might be many reasons, including getting higher grading as I said. But, fundamentally, it comes down to the service being effective.
The real experts in care
A care manager once said to me that the real experts in care are the people who are receiving care. I often quote that as an insightful comment worth remembering and applying.
People being cared for are most closely touched by care, and exposed to it continually. Being cared for usually happens in your home, so is a constant part of life, and the cared for are knowledgeable about all of its aspects.
So, as with any service, if the people receiving the service are involved in its quality and development, then it is more likely that it will suit their needs. It is like buying a mass produced shirt at the supermarket, versus having a bespoke shirt made to measure: the latter, involving the wearer of the garment, is much more likely to fit well and be of good quality.
How to answer the original question?
I think it is best to consider everything that is done in the service, and to ask people how they can be involved, if they wish, in that process.
I have seen very inclusive practice, where people being supported enjoyed taking an active part in the management board of national providing organisations. At other levels, people have designed and written high quality information leaflets about the service. And a person took great pride in helping to maintain the garden of his care home , having been a gardener all his life.
I think it is important to remember that their contribution will improve the quality of the service, and must be recognised and acknowledged, in monetary as well as other ways. Their contribution must be supported, also, through perhaps using advocates/representatives where communication is difficult, and training input for potentially complex tasks such as interviewing staff or commenting on financial matters.