A new twist to learning disability and mental health care provision

Sandie Foxhall-Smith
Sandie Foxhall-Smith

A new twist has been given to the campaign for person-centred care launched earlier this year by The Regard Group, the UK’s fourth largest private organisation providing supported living and residential services for people with learning disabilities, mental health needs and acquired brain injury.


Following on from Regard’s push for improved focus on service users being at the centre of their own care, the organisation is now calling for learning disability and mental health care provision to be not just person-centred but person-led.


Sandie Foxall-Smith, CEO of Regard, said: “Our ambition is to empower those we support to be fully involved not just in their own care but in the bigger decisions that affect the homes where they live.


“We believe in giving them a voice to help us make decisions, even when there are communications difficulties. This approach builds the self-esteem of the people we support and helps them become more independent.


“The staff teams based in Regard’s 147 services across the country appreciate how important this responsibility is to the people they support, and how it reflects their desire to make a genuine contribution.”


The organisation’s new initiative is now being rolled out nationwide, in the wake of a successful year-long pilot project in London and Surrey.  


Individuals supported by Regard will be asked whether they would like to become more actively involved in decisions about their support, and how it is delivered. They have also been invited to feed into the broader aims of the organisation, and increase their involvement in issues such as the internal and external auditing and inspection of services.


Sandie Foxall-Smith said: “We’ve also asked them how they would like to extend their involvement among the community they live in and – because we’re doing everything we can to encourage full participation – we’re asking them to tell us how they want this campaign to work. It’s the people who live with us who get to decide what they want from the campaign, where and when they want campaign progress meetings, and who should be involved in those meetings.


“They’ve called the project RISE@Regard, with RISE standing for respect, independence, speech/being heard and equality, which is what our service users have said are most important to them.”


Groups involved in the pilot project have drawn up a charter featuring six elements they would like staff teams, managers and the people they support to sign up to, which has been signed off by Regard’s senior management.


Sandie Foxall-Smith said: “The charter addresses eminently reasonable aims: for the individuals we support to be at the centre of their own care planning and any decisions made about their lives, to be supported to live their lives as independently as possible and to have increased involvement in their communities.


“The charter also makes it clear that they would like to have an active part in audits and inspections which take place in their homes, that they wish to be involved in staff recruitment, and that they want to know about the ‘big decisions’ The Regard Group makes about their homes and their care.


“We’re not just dealing with immediate goals and outcomes here, we’re looking ahead over the next couple of decades. Our work involves supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society and it is vital that they should be able to tell us whether we are getting it right or not.


“There are likely to be times that we shall be asked awkward questions, but the individuals we support have a right both to ask questions and to expect honest replies, and outsiders such as commissioning bodies are endorsing our initiative and giving us great feedback on the RISE campaign.


“It’s now our responsibility to take the project forward, and I’m delighted to say that all the regional teams in Regard are signing up to the new charter with enthusiasm, as well as developing local RISE groups.”


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