Research Report: Supporting people to live self-directed lives in the community: Learning from 54 Irish projects
Founded in 2008, Genio works to achieve a vision where all people are valued and supported as equal members of society.
Genio’s current programmes in Ireland are reaching whole populations of need in disability, mental health and homelessness in Ireland, in many cases underpinning national reform programmes.
Genio is a European organisation based in Ireland working with philanthropy and government at national and EU levels. Specialising in social service transformation, Genio has a deep understanding and track record of complex system change and combines fund-management, capacity-building, action research and impact-measurement to effect public service reform. The hallmark of Genio’s work is to strive to ensure service user involvement at every level of service design and delivery.
This work has been supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies and is now being sustained by Government. In the last 10 years Genio has helped to facilitate change and improvements for over 8,500 people across disability, mental health, dementia and homelessness services.
In 2014 Genio published a research report on how to support people with disabilities to live self-directed lives in the community. This research was drawn from 54 innovative projects across Ireland that were supported by Genio.
The paper outlines the key learning from 54 projects which have been supporting people with disabilities and mental health difficulties to move, usually from institutional settings, to live self-directed lives of their choosing in their local communities. The paper describes the implementation learning that has taken place; how this happens in practice; and the factors which lead to and support positive outcomes for the individuals. The paper draws on a significant body of data collected from these projects during on-site visits which included meetings with the project leads, key staff and the people being supported as well as family members, advocates and other allies.
The following characteristics have been identified as most strongly associated with good outcomes for the person and the organisation;
- Multi-level leadership – there should be ‘a champion’ at all levels of the organisation who supports and drives the move to a new way of supporting those using the service.
- Involving families and allies – needs to be done in a way that acknowledges their concerns, that considers how they want to be involved in supporting their family member and that considers the wishes of the person.
- Engaging and consulting with stakeholders – engagement should be future-focused on how different stakeholders are going to contribute to the new supports being developed.
- Staff skills and training – staff need to be trained/supported into these new ways of working.
- Readiness -the starting point should be that everyone is ready to move, with the emphasis on what supports needed to be put in place to ensure this happens safely and in a way that is designed by the person.
- It’s about more than housing – time should be built in for a process of really getting to know the person so that informed decisions can be made about accommodation options.
- Building strong and lasting relationships with the community – links with the community should be made in a very intentional and purposeful way for each person based on their abilities, contributions, wishes and needs.
- Start small and ‘model’ change – those involved act as ‘peer models’ for the process and the change involved. For those who will be moving, seeing their peer preparing and then successfully move, can give others encouragement that this is possible.
- Challenge of reconfiguration – in order to provide the supports for those who have moved, existing resources must be reconfigured so that the supports can move with the person.
- This takes time – to be done really well for each person, this process takes time.
- Focus on outcomes and monitor progress – progress can be greatly assisted by monitoring progress towards agreed outcomes.