Once again, our annual conference was held at the Burleigh Court Hotel, in Loughborough due to their facilities and exceptional hospitality. It was attended by 48 people we support, supporting staff, facilitators and organisers from across all 3 regions.
The 6th annual Involvement Conference began with a buffet style lunch before we settled into our first presentation. The conference was hosted by the brilliant Lisa and Kevin, people we support from, Swansea and Birmingham respectively.
The annual conference aims to give the people we support the opportunity to explore new topics, meet new people and lend their voice to how they want to be supported. The topics were chosen by the people we support through our Involvement Groups considering the needs of both residential and support living.
Independent Living and Assistive Technology
Our first workshop of the conference was delivered by Clare Brook Little and Nicole Murtroyd from MyLiferaft, a digital platform where individuals can keep their personal healthcare information in one place. Clare spoke to us about the wonderful benefits of assistive technology from helping you remember to take your medication to increasing independence through making food and drink safely.
Clare discussed how assistive technology should be tailored specifically to the individual and what matters to them. Assistive technology can be used to increase independence in a wide variety of ways, so it was important to consider what stops individuals from being independent, having fun and achieving their life goals.
Everyone was asked to consider, from the 15 topic cards on their tables, which areas were the most important. The topics included going out safely, remembering appointments, cooking, hobbies and staying healthy. It was enlightening to discover that for each of the topics, there was assistive technology available to increase independence and empowerment.
We then heard from the inspiring Sharon, a person we support in Swansea, about how she uses Alexa to remind her to take her medication, how she uses the one cup machine to make her hot drinks and the impact assistive technology has had on her independence. As a result of Sharon explaining how much Alexa assists her there was definite interest in others exploring how it can help them in the future
“I found out about adaptions for Alexa for time, prompts for when to eat and reminders for appointments” Sophie, a person we support in Swansea.
The workshop was fantastic with many takeaways about the various uses of assistive technology for the people we support. It was very positive to read some of the feedback from the people we support demonstrating their commitment to investigate further how assistive technology could increase their independence.
“There are a lot of different devices/help out there for me to live more independent“ Susan, a person we support in London.
We will be following up in the coming months to see what assistive technology is being used and what changes have been made to the lives of the people we support following the introduction of assistive technology. Clare has supplied several useful resources which will be shared across the organisation that list what is available by category, suppliers to research and in some cases ways to fund the purchase of assistive technology.
Managing my Money
Nina Harrington, our Benefits Advisor from the Finance Department gave a very engaging workshop on the ways to manage your money. Nina’s workshop covered why we need money, where our money comes from and how we can support individuals to effectively manage their money.
An interactive workshop encouraged people we support to consider why we need money and the kind of things they spend their money on.
Jeannette, a person we support in Cumbria, told us how she wants to spend her money on “a holiday to Benidorm”!
The people we support were asked to share their thoughts on where they think their money comes from with answers including, the government, jobs and family members. It was a good opportunity to reinforce the understanding and share experiences that the people we support have over what they spend their money on and ways to make money stretch further.
Nina ended the workshop explaining the ways in which we can manage our money which included budgeting, saving and planning. Furthermore, she discussed why talking through how individuals wish to spend money with others often helps get clarity and explore other options.
Following the session many people we support now consider budgeting to be an important element of money management.
“It is good to plan ahead for trips and to budget my money so I can do the things I want” Melanie, a person we support in Swansea.
Money is a key aspect in enabling independence. The workshop provided the time to be able to showcase ways to manage money and share personal experiences. During the workshop, one person we support mentioned that he had an ISA, prompting another individual on his table to ask more questions about ISA’s. The conference provided a safe and engaging space for the people we support to share ideas and learn from both the presenter and one another.
As an organisation we will now explore how we can ensure that conversations about how to manage money form part of a regular conversations with people we support and their key worker(s).
Dinner and Dancing
Day 1 of the Involvement Conference ended with a delicious buffet and lots of dancing.
The karaoke disco this year did not disappoint with everyone getting on the dancefloor, stretching their vocal chords and limbs as they showed off their moves. The night included a choreographed number from Paula, a person we support and her support worker, Annette. As well as a wonderful rendition of ‘Abide with me’ from Douglas, a person we support from Wales who has mild learning disabilities and Down’s syndrome.
The evening gave the chance for the people we support across our 3 regions to meet one another and make new friends.
“I most enjoyed meeting new people” Stephen, a person we support in Luton.
Following last year’s workshop on ‘Tackling loneliness and preventing isolation’, it’s important to note that this year, the conference made a conscientious effort to ensure the people we support were given time to socialise and make new friends.
How to Give Feedback
Our final day of the Involvement Conference began with this important question, how comfortable are you with giving feedback and it was posed by our Quality and Policy Manager, Misha Fontenot who led the workshop. The question posed was an opportunity to help the people we support think about the support and service they receive from Walsingham Support and others. As well as, understand that if they don’t speak out, their voices won’t be heard. Misha explained the types of feedback that can be given; compliments, suggestions, concerns and complaints highlighting examples of both positive, negative and neutral feedback.
The room came alive when the people we support gave lots of examples of feedback.
Lisa, a person we support in Swansea, gave an example of a compliment saying “I want to say thank you to my support workers for helping me improve my health”.
Nick, a person we support in Herefordshire, gave an example of a suggestion saying “My support worker suggests what I can do so I can be more independent”.
The workshop gave the people we support room to discuss how they can influence their support, understanding that “it’s ok to speak out” as Gary, a person we support in Tamworth noted.
Following her explanation of the different types of feedback, Misha then explained how to give feedback and the various ways including calling, sending an email, writing a letter, asking friends or family members to help or getting an advocate. The workshop empowered the people we support, with many demonstrating what they learnt by completing feedback forms on how we can improve our conference. Additionally, the people we support have committed to giving at least 1 piece of feedback in the next month. As feedback forms such a vital part of how we can progressively improve we will be exploring ways in which to ensure this is discussed in team meetings and that it is always on the agenda at every involvement conference going forward.
We have 4 involvement groups within our 3 regions; Northern England, Southern England and Wales. People we support meet once a month to discuss topics that are important to them, give feedback on policy processes and other aspects which help us as an organisation adhere to our values and strategic priorities.
Each year at our Involvement Conference, the groups present a topic they have been discussing and working on, throughout the year. The topics were using the internet/Facebook, top tips for using the cash machine, how care planning and assessments are conducted and getting good healthcare.
The first involvement group to present on day 1 of the Involvement Conference was the Southern Involvement Group on how they use the internet, particularly their use of Facebook. The group explained what Facebook is and how they use it to share any videos, pictures and ideas they may have. The group also talked to us about keeping safe online and shared an easy read guide for further reading. The group also encouraged individuals to join ‘Friends of Walsingham Support’ Facebook group to continue to stay in touch after the conference. The topic has since inspired some services to create their own Facebook group to share information with friends and loved ones in a private area.
The Northern Involvement group presented on day 1 and gave us top tips for using the cash machine. It included a lot of useful advice such as being aware of the people around you when taking out money and not forgetting to request a receipt.
The Wales Involvement Group kicked off the final day of the Involvement Conference saying Bore da (that’s Good Morning in Welsh) by presenting information about the importance of assessment and care planning and gave examples of how this happens in Wales. The group brilliantly explained the help that is available to the people we support whether it’s needing assistance with healthcare, making friends or cooking. They explained the importance of writing your care and support plan with your support worker ensuring that your needs are fully captured and met.
Finally, the Midlands Involvement Group presented through role play. The group explained how to ask for easy read and accessible information as well as demonstrating how to advocate for yourself when talking to the doctor. They gave us tips such as being prepared, ensuring you take your hospital passport with you and taking a friend with you for additional support.
All topics highlighted some key considerations and how to overcome challenges.
Performance and Raffle
The end of conference performance was given by our very own welsh locality manager, Ceri. A man of many talents, not simply being able to provide outstanding care for the people we support, Ceri also provided some entertainment! Our very own, Paul McCartney, he serenaded us with classics such as “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond and “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon. Ceri is not the only talented staff member at Walsingham Support, Netty, who is one of our fabulous support workers from Tamworth got the conference buzzing even more with the sing a long classic “Rivers of Babylon” by Boney M. People we support and staff were encouraged to join Ceri & Netty at the front to sing and dance.
Finishing of the conference on a high, Paul and Donna called out and presented prizes to the raffle winners. We are grateful to the wonderful organisations who donate prizes. We would like to thank, Abilia, AIG, Complete IT, Domus Recruitment, Easylink, Empower Housing Association, Meridian Business Support, Midtown Capital Limited, Peter Lowman, Reed Recruitment, NatWest and The Chrysalis Crew for all the prizes donated that put a smile on the faces of the people we support. Each of the prizes were linked to the conference themes with Linda, a person we support in Rickmansworth winning a talking clock, one of many examples of assistive technology. Gary, a person we support in Tamworth winning a holiday fund smash money box to help him manage his money and plenty of vouchers which are often won when giving feedback. Once again thank you to all our partners for your kind generosity.
The conference was a l reminder of how our services are as unique as the individuals we support and how Walsingham Support continues to work with the people we support for greater independence. Feedback was gathered from the people we support, staff and facilitators and will help us continue to work to improve the life and happiness of everyone we support.
In the coming months, we will be following-up with the people we support on how they’ve implemented what they’ve taken away from the conference into their day to day. But it doesn’t end there we will be touching base to find out how what we have learnt will change our focus for the future, particularly our strategic priorities for 2020/2021.
We would like to thank everyone who made the conference a success particularly our wonderful hosts Kevin and Lisa who done a wonderful job at keeping everyone informed and things running smoothly. A huge thank you goes to Lisa, Jim and Lawrence, people we support who joined the project group this year. Their input was invaluable! Anyone who would like to be involved in the planning for next year, please get in touch.
The planning for next year now commences and we look forward to it. In the meantime, if you would like to take a look at pictures from the whole conference please visit our Facebook page.