Several of the experts by experience that we spoke to stressed the importance of evaluating services from the perspective of people with a learning disability, and particularly seeking the opinions of those who use them.
People with a learning disability or family carers can play an important role in working with service users to gain a deeper understanding of service quality. The Leeds ‘Good Lives Leaders’ Project supports people with learning disabilities to visit other adults with a learning disability who live in supported living or residential homes and talk to the people who live there to find out about their experience.
The volunteers visit the homes after Leeds City Council have done their inspections. Prior to the actual visit, the homes are supplied with information about the role of Good Lives Leaders, and details of the people carrying out the visit.
During the visit the Good Lives Leaders aim to talk to the residents on a one to one basis, to establish that they are happy with the life in the home and that their needs and safety are being met. They also check that any hobbies, routines, leisure outings and contact with family are encouraged. Good Lives Leaders also discuss if there is anything that the residents are unhappy with. The information collected is used to prepare a report, which includes both good and not so good comments. This is submitted to Leeds City Council who then forward it to the organisation operating the service.
Good Lives Leaders hold regular debrief meetings with Council representatives when the reports are discussed, along with the organisation’s responses. The Good Lives Leaders find it very rewarding when they are thanked us for their comments, and offer solutions to things that residents were unhappy with. The group of Good Lives Leaders have become firm friends, provide support to each other, and on occasions socialise together.
The value of this initiative is shown in the comment of Andy Rawnsley:
From an organisational perspective it is always good to have a different pair of eyes looking in and providing feedback. The Good Lives Leaders in Leeds provide a particularly invaluable perspective, which provides a real ‘feel’ of how a service operates from the perspective of people who use services and their family carers. We use this feedback to make improvements in individual homes, and also pick up any themes that we can apply across the whole organisation. The Good Lives Leaders feedback is a great additional piece of feedback to augment more formal audits and inspections.”
Andy Rawnsley, Chief Executive of Aspire Community Benefit Society
“Good Lives Leaders” in the words of two volunteers:
Good Lives Leaders was really good and interesting and I was doing a good job. I really enjoy Good Lives Leaders and I really miss it. I miss seeing people and helping people"
A woman with learning disabilities
I am truly honoured to be part of the Good Lives Leaders team. We are not inspectors but checkers to see if people have a good life and can make choices in their homes with support if needed. As a mum/carer we look at the service to see what we want for our loved ones and how it can be improved if at all. We give our time freely so we can listen and improve services for people who do not always have a voice, this means we can make changes and improve lives for the better."
A family carer