Friday 6th July 2018
In the second in our Asset Based Blog Series, Alan Roberts, Service Planning and Development Manager at the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, reflects on the involvement of people with learning disabilities in local community engagement…
“Have a learning disability? – become a rugby player”
This was one of the opportunities presented during the asset based community engagement event, ‘Fife up your life!’ held on 31st May in Dunfermline. I have to thank my Scottish Commission for Learning Disability (SCLD) colleague, Catriona Rowley for the zippy title. Indeed, we agreed that the title of all future events should relate to the Spice Girls back catalogue!
Sponsored and organised by SCLD, in partnership with Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, the event brought forty two people together from both within and outside of Fife to consider opportunities for community engagement with people who have a learning disability.
Arising from an SCLD report which reviewed asset-based approaches for people with learning disabilities in Scotland: Building Bridges to a Good Life, the event sought to explore how we can achieve more meaningful community support for people with a learning disability in Fife.
In some ways Fife can be viewed as an insular area, defined by the various bridges across the Tay and the Forth. The logo of Fife Council is a good example of this and thus ‘building bridges’ felt very apt as a motif.
One of the challenges of the day was made by Zoe Ferguson from the Carnegie UK Trust who spoke about her report The Place of Kindness. Zoe asked attendees to consider how we encourage kindness and what gets in the way of achieving it.
Although there were a number of responses to these questions, it did feel hard to define.
But it was a helpful start for us, in that it got us thinking about communities in all their forms, and how anybody can have an impact on their community through their behaviour and attitudes.
Kindness was also prevalent in an input from Break Away – an organisation which provides tailored respite to meet the needs of individuals and their carers. They told us about the possibilities of using self directed support money and other funds in a shared or group way, to enhance people’s lives. This presentation was made even more powerful as it was delivered by people with learning disabilities who showed that working together in an organised (if pressured) way, can certainly deliver the goods!
Developing areas of deprivation
There was a presentation from one of Fife’s Area Community Development Managers regarding work in Macedonia – an area of deprivation in Glenrothes. The presentation highlighted one of the main challenges that people with a learning disability and other marginalised groups face; namely being excluded from engagement with community involvement processes.
Should local marginalised groups and individuals be more forceful in engaging community planning processes, or should that responsibility lie with community development managers? And where are social care organisations’ expectations and responsibilities in this?
The answer is probably that all three need to be more proactive. It is not happening at present, but could in the future.
“Should local marginalised groups and individuals be more forceful in engaging community planning processes, or should that responsibility lie with community development managers?”
This constituted the second and largest part of the event. Based on the ‘World Cafe’ format, presenters on five subjects moved from table to table, giving a five minute presentation followed by ten minutes of questions and discussion.
The subjects were wide and varied: ‘On Your Doorstep‘, a webpage designed to be used by members of the community to find out about what is available for them in their localities; ‘Small Sparks‘ which offers small grants to community based projects across Fife, and ‘Changing the Face of Day Services in Fife’, a reflection on how day services have changed over recent years, particularly in West Fife.
More specific inputs were TRI Inclusive Rugby (mentioned above) and ‘We Can All Do It’ – ENABLE Scotland’s service that helps families where young people and children are at risk of exclusion, as well as supporting families which have a member with a learning disability.
This format seemed to bring a lot of energy to the room as it was strictly time managed, so people had to get their points across and respond to questions really quickly.
As with Community Planning, current engagement with people who have a learning disability was not happening or else it varied across the presented services and initiatives. Yet, there was a sense of potential development and engagement with people with a learning disability within all of these services.
“There was a sense of potential development and engagement with people with a learning disability within all of these services.”
We were keen to get the views of the event from people who use Fife’s services. So at the end of the afternoon we heard from a parent carer, who is also a community worker, and from someone with a learning disability who is a member of the advocacy organisation People First. The feedback from both was positive, which is encouraging.
Was the event a success? I would say so – we managed to show what community development and engagement was happening inside and outside of Fife, and lots of contact details and information were swapped.
The power of networking…
When the TRI Rugby Team was launched earlier in the year, it initially met with limited success as few people attended. Karen Mitchell, who is driving this initiative, felt very positive after the event about the future of the team, given the interest she had had during the presentations and the amount of people with a learning disability known to attendees who might be interested in attending a session. TRI Rugby looks set to expand its reach across Fife as a direct result of the engagement event, which is fantastic.
At the end of the day attendees were given postcards and asked to write down their own plans to build bridges and make connections. This will be followed up by SCLD in six months’ time to establish any longer term progress or impact from the event.
Future activity needs to address broader and also more specific community engagement initiatives, and help people with a learning disability engage with them. There are plans for a smaller group which reflects the components of the event, in order to address these issues.
“Future activity needs to address broader and also more specific community engagement initiatives, and help people with a learning disability engage with them.”
An enjoyable day was had by all, and I feel that we really did ‘Fife up’ our lives!
Service Planning and Development Manager
Fife Health and Social Care Partnership