2020 Year of Transformational Change

As we go into 2021, we want to honour the lives lost, but also celebrate the heroism, determination, and resilience our sector has demonstrated time and time again.

Alongside the basic challenges of staff recruitment, there have been significant changes in working practices driven by legislation, regulation updates, and social distancing requirements. There have been substantially increased workloads, mainly through increased cleaning regimes and loss of formal and informal support. There have also been changes to core working practices such as assessment and support, which are increasingly being delivered through a remote platform. In addition, there has been rapid recruitment requirements, new challenges in maintaining staff wellbeing and managing safety and safeguarding, all of which have impacted on workforce development requirements.  

This led to a considerable rise in the demand for our services, which we had to match with the rapid development of a new digital infrastructure to enable us to offer programmes online. During this time, we have worked extensively across the sector, with a very broad range of stakeholders.  At first we were reluctant to make the change from face to face to online, and like many others in our sector, it felt a huge struggle to meet the demands of day to day whilst undergoing vast transformation. We watched in horror when many of the support services we trained were left to deal with challenging, complex situations without adequate support and equipment. We heard many stories of the personal challenges people faced balancing the need to protect their family, with protecting their community. Their stories motivating and inspiring.

Despite these challenges in 2020, our service reached and trained over seven thousand staff and volunteers and delivered over 600 programmes. However, we were not able to reach all services in our community, or at times, have the impact we aspire to. Many services experienced digital poverty and struggled with the skills to access online learning. Others struggled to understand the etiquette for online learning, leading to poor commitment and engagement. Some struggled with such huge workloads that it was impossible to undertake skills development.

It has been a huge learning curve for us, but some of the triumphs are that we are now able to reach more people, be more creative in our learning design and offer a more flexible and accessible service. In addition, we are now able to benefit from the power on many voices, access more experts by experience, made possible by the collaboratively power of technology. We have also been able to learn from and support situated practice, through better accessibility. We have been driven far more by learners dictating their own learning needs, rather than taking a top-down approach. All of this has meant that we have a far greater impact in our work.

In this period of rapid growth, we have welcomed many new team members to our team and have immersed ourselves in learning, development, and reflection during this period. Through this process  has emerged a whole set of new programmes including our higher apprenticeships which are designed for service improvement.

During the year we gathered large sets of data so we could compare performance, pre and post pandemic. The outcomes are welcome and show that moving forward, the way is truly blended.

During this period, we have continued to gather impact data on our programmes and are already starting to see some excellent results. For example, from our Advanced Care Planning programmes some of the impacts we have seen include:

  • Being able to provide appropriate and timely advice to individuals and families about legal provisions related to advance care planning
  • Being able to carry out timely conversations in advance care planning

Or in our Safeguarding Enquiry Officer Programmes, some of the impacts we have seen.

  • Being able to support the process of MSP, particularly in complex cases
  • Being able to develop productive relationships with adults, (and others) to produce multi agency safeguarding protection plans.
  • Being able to confidently apply the legislation and policy that underpins adult safeguarding.

Our Social Enterprise structure has enabled us not only to survive, but thrive during this time, and has reaffirmed for us that we must adopt different approaches in our sector that consider the collective, not just the individual.

It is with great gratitude to those individuals and organisations that have been on this journey with us through this time.

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A New Kind of Dementia Apprenticeship

Beth Britton, one of the U.K.’s leading campaigners on dementia, writes about her review of our new leadership apprenticeships in dementia care and what she loves most about these ground-breaking qualifications.

Here is what she wrote:

One of the areas of dementia care and support that I am most passionate about is education. As a former carer to my dad, I know that many of the health and social care staff who cared for him didn’t have the type of dementia education I now advocate and teach as a campaigner and consultant, and that would have made a big difference to the way my dad was supported.

Reviewing the 3 Spirit Dementia Apprenticeship Programmes

It is with my passion for dementia education in mind that I was delighted to work with 3 Spirit UK earlier this year to review their Level 4 Apprenticeship in Dementia for Lead Practitioners in Adult Care and their Level 5 Apprenticeship in Dementia for Leaders in Adult Care. I’ve known Caroline Bartle, who founded 3 Spirit, since 2014 when we met at the Alzheimer Europe Conference, and from following her work – predominately via social media – it’s clear how passionate she is about dementia education. The sheer volume of free resources 3 Spirit have created and shared over the years is testimony to that.

When Caroline approached me to review the 3 Spirit apprenticeships programme, she explained that through her doctorate she is looking at how practice can be impacted by learning interventions. This focus has become the driving force behind how the learning experience in these apprenticeships has been designed, and I was intrigued to find out more.

Why are these leadership apprenticeships so valuable?

Our experiences with my dad’s care, and my subsequent professional experiences as a consultant, have underlined to me the importance of good leadership in health and social care organisations. Investing in leaders informs the culture of care within organisations, and that directly impacts upon the people who depend on those care and support services and their wider families.

Of course the health and social care landscape is awash with training, but there are elements in the 3 Spirit apprenticeships that I find really exciting from a personal perspective. Most notably, that the Level 4 programme includes an Expert by Experience Month, which focuses heavily on meaningfully engaging with the creative arts (something my dad would undoubtedly have benefited from staff doing more with him), and that it’s intended (providing partnerships can be fostered with peer support organisations) that both Level 4 and Level 5 learners will be mentored by people living with dementia. 

I have always said that the greatest learning in dementia care comes from working with people living with dementia, and this type of mentoring is a really progressive step in dementia education. The Level 4 programme is also being delivered in partnership with the Life Story Network CIC, a connection I originally made for 3 Spirit and one that I am delighted to see has resulted in the type of joined-up working that is so important if we are to bring the best of what different organisations offer together rather than us all working in our own silos.

Making a Difference to Quality of Life

What else do I love about these apprenticeships? They have quality of life outcomes for people living with dementia and needing support at their heart, they have the aim of directly impacting the day-to-day practice of learners that will benefit those they are supporting (including each learner undertaking a service improvement project which is supported and mentored by the 3 Spirit team), they are about implementing progressive best practice that is rooted in compassionate approaches (in my view compassion is still so underrated in health and care services), and they take a holistic standpoint that supports the entire health or social care service that learners are working in.

As you’d expect, launching anything new in these unprecedented times means taking full account of how COVID-19 is impacting us all. The ongoing learning from the pandemic is included in the curriculum for apprentices, and 3 Spirit – like myself and most other training providers – are utilising digital platforms to ensure that training can be safe but also still provide that all important peer-to-peer learning.

At a time when it’s more vital than ever to retain valued practitioners and leaders within health and care services to support people living with dementia – who have been severely adversely affected by COVID-19 – these apprenticeships are, in my view, a really positive step forward for staff and service development. I also hope that they form a blueprint for training providers that means more widespread working with people living with dementia in the future.

About the author:

Beth Britton is an award-winning content creator, consultant, trainer, mentor, campaigner and speaker who is an expert in ageing, health and social care https://www.bethbritton.com

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Trauma, Anxiety and Sleep Issues in Autism

A blog on Trauma, Anxiety and Sleep Issues in Autism by Andy Rotherham

It is not uncommon for Late-Diagnosed Autistic People to present with symptoms similar to what would be expected in someone who is experiencing PTSD.

Although different in origin to PTSD the relentless piling up of anxieties and trauma that occur in an undiagnosed Autistic person’s life can still be seriously debilitating.

I speak openly and often in training sessions about incidents in my past that caused me such trauma. They all boil down to one thing though; communication.

A lifetime of being misunderstood, misinterpreted, having your morals and intentions constantly questioned. Having your intelligence incorrectly assessed because you can’t communicate it in the same way as your classmates. Being tongue tied when put on the spot, and being slow in group conversation because you are still processing all that has been said and are behind the arc.

Can you imagine the frustration of this happening to you constantly? Having to endure this? The more you try to explain they have you wrong, the worse it gets.

Some of my earliest memories are lying in bed crying myself to sleep with a painful knot of anxiety in my gut. It would be from a playground confrontation, or maybe a teacher who just didn’t get me at all. I learned from an early age not to behave in what I now know to be an Autistic way. It would only lead to punishment if I did. And of course that punishment, usually physical and brutal, added to my frustration and anxiety. This translated into poor, anxiety laden sleep. And of course even now if I am tired and sleep deprived my Autism is far more visible and obvious.

After I was diagnosed as Autistic at the age of 50 I had to deal with this Anxiety. In applying for help I was advised to ‘play down’ my Autism and specifically ask for help with Anxiety. My Autism was only mentioned as a foot note when I asked for a counsellor who would be familiar with Autism.

By adapting the way I presented my case i I managed to get some CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions. For me it worked well. It gave me a way of dealing with this Anxiety which, by that time, had made me chronically ill both mentally and physically. I learned to apply pure logic, something that comes naturally to me. Did someone say Vulcan???

I was able to dispense with all the specific incidents that had traumatised me as they resurfaced in my memories.

However their indelible footprint still remains to this day and manifests itself in different ways.

My anxiety is pretty much under control, and I am careful not to let new misunderstandings that occur to linger in my head. I either try and solve it at the time, later when I can be clear, or walk away knowing I did my best.

However the thing I still haven’t got to grips with is poor sleep and nightmares. They are no longer about specific incidents from memory. They tend to be scenarios that my unconscious mind makes up that brings the anxiety back. It usually follows the pattern of being either misunderstood or finding my place, whether it is my barrack room or my office and belongings have been interfered with. Sometimes I have been replaced and no one told me, or I have retired but they don’t accept that fact and keep bringing me back. Most of these are based loosely around things that did actually happen to me.

I try my best to deal with this through lucid dreaming. Before I fall asleep each night I repeat a chant to myself that I am no longer in the services or working for my last employer and that they have no power over me. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I am able to interrupt my own dream by lucidly taking control and reminding myself that I am no longer in their control.

I have been in more than my fair share of tragic events. I have witnessed the aftermath of many violent deaths. I have been in more life threatening situations than I could count. Yet none of that troubles me.

Following a major breakdown at work my employer compelled me to complete a full Psych Evaluation. The results of this test showed very high scores for both Autism and PTSD.

They then made me see a GP who worked for them via their Occupational Health Dept. He led me back through some of the incidents I mentioned above and asked me if I ever dream about these. The meeting ended up with him screaming at me that I could not have PTSD if I am not troubled by such things and that I could not possibly be Autistic if I was able to work in such a job. Which of course added to my anxiety and trauma…

I was eventually able to get my Autism diagnosis through a referral from my GP to an Autism Consultant as a Private Patient.

We need to rethink about how late diagnosis of Autism affects us. To diagnose (If you are lucky) and not offer any specific support in the aftermath is not helpful. It is the start of a journey, not the end.

It took me a year to get my head around the implications of the diagnosis and deal with the Anxiety I have spoken about.

I am in a happy place now in my life. If I can find a way to deal with these nightmares my life will be pretty much perfect. Although I find talking to my Wife about my dreams helps I am still searching for a permanent solution.

Andy Rotherham

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Our Apprenticeships

An apprenticeship means learning on the job, at any age. Apprenticeships are not just for young people. In the health and social care sector older apprentices often have great life experiences to contribute.

For apprenticeships of a higher level, individuals can already be working in the sector, and need to do an apprenticeship to advance career opportunities. However, to complete an apprenticeship, the learner is required to complete 20% “off the job” learning.

This 20% is likely to include the following activities:

  • Attending virtual classrooms
  • Contributing to forums
  • Completing assignments
  • Guided reading
  • Reflective diaries
  • Shadowing other members of the team
  • Participating in audits
  • Feedback/learning sessions with some of the people the learner supports
  • Meetings

We specialise in the delivery of Higher Apprenticeships in the Care Sector.

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Transitions in Social Care Training

Face to face delivery has always been the preferred delivery model in social care for very good reasons. To teach ‘care’ an interpersonal approach is required. Our impact assessment demonstrates that there is greater impact where the delivery is actively able to model ‘care’, to demonstrate inclusion and share experiences in a powerfully reflective way, person to person. Our impact work also demonstrates that there are sometimes unintended consequences to passionate delivery, where the learner is not only moved to feel confident and capable, but also inspired to make a difference.

Face to face delivery provides an aesthetic experience, one which utilizes sensory experiences, positive communication styles and human connection to improve impact. Care can also be very ‘practical’ in nature (beyond the obvious topics such as first aid and moving and positioning) and therefore, can benefit from face to face delivery. Teaching ‘care’ is also a reflective experience both for the learner and the facilitator which is evoked more naturally within a face to face setting.

In the past couple of months COVID-19 has caused a significant shift in the way learning is delivered. Social distancing has forced us to re-evaluate the delivery model, with some very surprising outcomes. The challenge for us has been how we maintain the organizations ability to impact practice, within an online platform. How could we affect the way people feel and inspire people to make a difference in their work through the medium of a computer?

How do we develop rapport with people and negotiate practical commitments for change? And how do we really listen to the way people feel and offer safe spaces where people can share their experiences?

Last week we were delighted to learn we were provided a grant by Ufi for digital transformation. This also provides access to a community of practice to re-imagine our practice. We called our project ‘Transitions’ but is best described as a rebirth. The pace of change has been rapid. COVID-19 has forced everyone to adopt remote delivery. Without COVID-19, it would have taken years to encourage people to adopt this type of learning and get to the point where we are now delivering the number of webinars we are doing in the space of a few weeks. It has forced people into the digital era almost overnight. In addition to this, the workforce we support are now having to adapt to new ways of working, new laws and challenges, balancing rights and responsibilities. Rapid recruitment is required, including the training of volunteers. Training is needed now, but the sector is currently not ready to embrace new ways of working. Some of the challenges we have experienced include:

  • Services reluctant to let people train in their home environment, worried that they will not engage fully
  • Individuals reluctant to use their own personal mobile devices
  • Lack of equipment including head sets
  • Lack of digital skills, e.g. ‘what is a mouse?’ 😊!!
  • Lack of commitment from employers to transition working practices
  • People accessing without headsets in shared offices
  • Confidentiality when training in learners’ own homes
  • Skilling up the trainers to wear two hats in their delivery, IT extraordinaire and outstanding trainer
  • Security issues with specific webinar platforms requiring our team to rapidly develop skills to use multiple platforms that meet different client requirements
  • Fear of the unknown, no experience in alternative delivery methods

Challenges with delivery have included:

  • Enabling learners to feel safe
  • Meeting a range of learning styles
  • Reasonable adjustments
  • Keeping the course interactive and managing contributions
  • Developing rapport with learners

However, despite these challenges great opportunities are emerging, such as:

  • Course Preparation – sending information ahead of a course enables learners to be more engaged
  • Social Learning – peer collaborations, often across services
  • ‘Flipped Learning’ – courses that were delivered over a full day are now split over two half days with a case study in between to reflect on
  • Collaboration – across the training and delivery teams reducing duplication and encouraging innovation
  • Greater accessibility and an ability to reach a much wider market
  • Leveraging resources – multimedia platforms leading to broader accessibility
  • Maximising constructivist approaches – optimizing problem based scenarios/ case studies by drawing from a broader audience
  • The ability to match trainers’ skills to client’s needs – previously there were geographical restrictions with face to face delivery

We would do well to remember the context of social care within this technological transformation. We recongise that much of our work relates to sensitive subjects, so in addition to onboarding around technology, we also need to consider confidentiality and emotional safety. But we also need to recognize that part of enabling people to feel safe and included, means supporting them with digital capabilities and the confidence to use new platforms. With a greater focus on visual teaching practices we need to ensure that we adopt positive images and deliver a broad range of cultural representations to make our material relevant and inclusive. We need to consider how to use technology to integrate activities which powerfully advocate human rights, deliver progressive strength-based ideologies and promote justice. We need to embrace those technologies that enhance the human experience, to share powerful stories that have a sustainable impact. We must be committed to the person’s voice and that our technologies are accessible to experts by experience and enhance, not hinder their contributions. We must exploit those technologies that capture and highlight the great contributions that individual care and support staff make to people’s lives. Finally, we must continue to maintain data protection, protect our learners from being exposed to negative online experiences and continually strive for safeguarding both for our learners and broader communities.

However, social care learning is not a single point of delivery. Knowledge management practices require a much more strategic approach to interface what we need to deliver in social care to get good outcomes.  Our organization has invested heavily in the development of techniques to improve impact of vocational learning in social care. Our focus has always been on outcomes of our work, not necessarily the evaluation forms, nor just learner outcomes, but instead the impact for our communities: the organisations and the individuals they support. The strategies we adopt to improve the reach of our work includes measures before (in organisational needs assessment), during (communicating expected impacts) and after (staging resources and providing tools). We have historically relied on technology to achieve the before and after but have been reluctant to move to blended approaches in delivery. However, Social Distancing has a sliver lining, the impetus to take these bold steps to integrate our impact work with equally as impactful online delivery through the medium of ‘Virtual Classroom’.

What is clear is that ‘care’ is still about people. So, we must remain focused on the people and how technology can be used to enhance facilitative relationships. I am excited about the use of new technologies, particularly how these may leverage our impact by utilising teaching strategies which encourage reflective practice and collaboration.Share Us

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Our Campaign: Prevention Through Education

Our social care services flex and bend under the weight of increasing care demands. More people need care and their care needs are more complex. People need to think on their feet, learn to adapt and work in ways that can impact powerfully on people’s lives. Our social care services are over stretched and mostly underpaid. Increased challenges in workforce development has meant that technology is being used in creative ways to stimulate learning and conversations in busy environments.

We are a social enterprise and we have been self-funding the development of educational resources which we share freely to organisations to start conversations about important topics. Funding training can be difficult and care services are often focusing on just having enough people to do the job. The environments are busy and the job is demanding and complex yet requires a great set of skills.

Our learning resources are designed to work in busy environments, to chunk learning in bite size, and to be easily shared. The aims of our resources are to encourage people to think differently and to develop the skills to provide care and support that is empowering, proactive, connected and compassionate. We aim to change hearts and minds and to tackle ignorance and discrimination by engaging people through visually eye-catching resources.

Developing and funding these resources is not easy. Because care is complex often the development of resources requires great collaboration, across different people and services so can be costly. Lack of public funding, a highly competitive industry and a general lack of trust and a sense of togetherness can put obstacles in the way of collaboration and developing good quality learning resources.

We need to work creatively and collaborate broadly to tackle some of these challenges. One of the ways that we do this is by “sharing to create”. In the development of our resources we collaborate broadly. We consider our role as a catalyst as we aim to bring practical solutions to diverse work settings.

To date we have produced over 100 different resources which are shared around the world across social media. Some of the topics have included:

  • Autism
  • Safeguarding
  • Dementia
  • Culture of care
  • Working with Challenge
  • Hearing and Sight Loss
  • Health and Safety
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Loneliness
  • LGBTQi
  • Mental health
  • Emergency First Aid
  • Person centred planning
  • Social Work

However, our work is not done yet! We need your help to continue to make a difference through our work. When designing our resources, we aim to promote human rights, encourage inclusivity and challenge oppression. We are delighted to learn that our resources are now not only used by the social care sector but also by individuals wanting to make more informed decisions about their own lives.

Our resources make a difference in people’s lives. We have had an amazing response to our resources. Here are some of the things that people have said:

  • They have inspired me.
  • I share the infographics via Twitter and have received many positive comments about the wonderful information that is provided. In addition, they make my job as a Memory Care Program Facilitator much easier as the infographics are the written form of what I teach!
  • I am a care home manager. It has not only aided me in supporting the individuals within the home but also my staff team in giving them guidance and support. My team also benefits from them individually and as a group in improving understanding and the quality of care they deliver.
  • Helping me to overcome and manage my feelings of frustration and anger and guilt as observed through your advice on how to better modify my reactions and behaviour to cope with my mum’s dementia.
  • They are easy to read & understand and when shown to members of the public (not involved in the care industry) the message is easily relayed.
  • I deliver dementia awareness training in my trust and find they have a positive impact in training as they are so visual.
  • I have helped raise awareness in my child’s school and friends and family.
  • Reminding people that dementia affects all communities.
  • Often very useful if talking to a carer of a person with dementia, to be able to show them a visual representation of what’s being discussed. This can make it easier for them to retain the information.
  • The information is very simple, very clear and easy to understand. I don’t have to read pages and pages just to find out about one thing.

Each of our resources costs over £200 to create which we have funded independently over the years. We would like to crowd source a further £5,000 so that we can make a further 25 on these topics:

  • Older people and autism
  • Mental health and autism
  • Mental health and learning disability
  • Positive interventions in dementia care
  • Loss and dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Risk reduction in dementia
  • Support staff (looking after yourself)
  • Strength based approaches to support
  • Mental Capacity and Liberty Protection Safeguards
  • Well-being in the workplace
  • Safeguarding
  • Care partners (looking after yourself)
  • Links between physical and mental well-being
  • Mental health and substance misuse

If you have used our resources in the past and found them useful, please contribute to our project so that we can continue doing what we do. These resources will be made freely available at the end of the project to anyone that would like to access them. They can be shared easily across social media and contain lots of embedded links to further information.Share Us

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Autism & Friendship

I have been mulling over what to say in this blog for a few weeks now. If ever there was an emotionally difficult subject for me to write about, friendship is it.

I will start off by saying that my childhood was very painful, but things did get better in the end. There is a happy ending, I promise!

From a very early age, it was very obvious that I couldn’t fit in with any friendship groups. This didn’t stop me wanting desperately to fit in though. It is only now, following my diagnosis at the age of 50, that I am able to look back and understand why I was struggling and what I was doing. I had no idea, and still don’t really, of how to act in that kind of social situation. It was all a great mystery to me so I started observing and copying behaviours, phrases, speech, remembering jokes that made people laugh. Of course, a joke is only funny if the situation is right and the right inflection is put on the right words. Not good if you have a monotonic voice and can’t read social situations. In retrospect, I was trying too hard and through all that social masking my own identity was lost, to the point I didn’t even know who I was. Consequently, the reactions to me ranged from strange looks, raised eyebrows to social exclusion. This led to me being more desperate to fit in. And when I couldn’t read the body language and verbal brush offs it would often lead to violence.

I lost count of the times I was beaten up or chased home from school by some mob or other. Of course my knack for saying the wrong thing, sometimes deep and hurtful, without realising, didn’t help matters. This social exclusion and bullying still remains to this day. What has changed though is the way I deal with it.

Because people don’t always understand me, my problems with understanding verbal instructions and that I am not good at explaining things, they also seem to get the impression that I am not very bright.

I catch myself social masking sometimes and trying to be too nice to people who aren’t nice to me. They seem to take this as a sign of weakness or subservience. I try my best not to let it bother me.

Of course with co-morbid anxiety issues despite my best efforts it does hurt. I wish I could dismiss it as what it is, a reflection of who they are and their issues rather than mine. However, I promised you a happy ending. Here it is;

Being so open and honest about my Autism diagnosis led to a shift in my friendships. Some people I thought were good friends turned out not to be so. They couldn’t handle what I was saying, although being fair I did obsess over it for a year while I sorted it all out in my head. Some said some really hurtful things and I also learned that quite a few friends only wanted to be around me for what they gained.

I started investing my time in people who accept me exactly as I am and who are willing to allow me to be Autistic in their company.

I now have some wonderful and loyal friends. We don’t see each other for months, but pick up like we haven’t been apart immediately. I don’t invest time in people who don’t get me anymore. Life is too short to do so. They soon fade away. Those who stick with you are the ones who deserve your time.Share Us

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Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA)

It is an honour to be invited to become a member of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA). The RSA do really cool initiatives like bringing likeminded people together to harness power for social good. A network of people who are great thinkers, innovators and social reformers. I will become a fellow alongside some of the greatest thinkers in our sector. I will also get to have the letters “FRSA” added after my name, which stand for a “Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts” (in comparison to my doctorate studies, these seem like easy stripes to earn).

However, looking back on the last few years, it has been far from easy, and far from an individual effort. Since starting the 3 Spirit collective, I have been joined by many ‘free spirits’, and in all those years not one person has left the collaborative which is testament to me, of the strength of our bonds, and of our service. Even those who retire remain part of the 3 Spirit family. I am grateful that we continually learn from their wisdom.

It has always been important to us that the people and businesses that we work with are committed to human rights, have a value-based approach to their work and are creative and compassionate – something easier said than done in the current sector climate. Increasingly, we are seeing local authorities focus on cost disproportionately to quality. We are increasingly being called into services on a reactive basis (following CQC inspections) to carry out our remedial training when we should be investing in developing skills for prevention.

It takes staunch commitment and vision sometimes to keep walking up, what seems to be a very steep hill. Lack of public funding, a highly competitive industry and a general lack of trust and a sense of togetherness can put obstacles in the way of developing good quality training. I believe that we ought to think creatively and collaborate on a wider scale to tackle some of these challenges. One of the ways that we do this is by “sharing to create”. We have an active knowledge management strategy that keeps us learning, often in the most unusual of places. Over the past few years, we have invested heavily in each other, and in each other’s learning, developing a ‘collective consciousness’. We have shared our work openly and at no cost and have generally enjoyed the feedback and comments we get from the wider community. We delight in the feedback on the impact our resources have had on individuals’ lives. However, at times, we are still insensitively challenged. We value research, but use this to engage with practice to create new knowledge. We consider ourselves catalysts, bringing practical solutions to diverse work settings. To put our work out there is to harness the power of many, and to listen to those voices which are largely marginalised and all those that have interesting things to say.

It’s been almost 3 years since we turned the company into a social enterprise. When we did this, we started to have much more of a focus on the impact of our work. Out of 100 people we surveyed last year 70 gave us 10 / 10 for the quality of our training and 30 gave us 9/10. However, whilst we are delighted at this, the true measure of our work is in our social impact.

Our Social Impact Survey showed that we are making the following impacts in our community:

Our Social Impact Survey shows that our infographics are used for:

These are some of the comments that we got from our Social Impact Survey:

Can you give any specific examples about how our infographics have impacted positively?

  • They have inspired me.
  • I share the infographics via Twitter and have received many positive comments about the wonderful information that is provided. In addition, they make my job as a Memory Care Program Facilitator much easier as the infographics are the written form of what I teach!
  • They are easy to read & understand and when shown to members of the public (not involved in the care industry) the message is easily relayed.
  • Spreading knowledge to others.
  • They give great advice, better understanding and knowledge. Increases confidence for care staff.
  • By gaining further knowledge assists me to carry out my role with added confidence and efficiency.
  • Impacted my awareness.
  • Demonstrating the impact of caring.
  • Positive informative, visually stimulating.
  • I have helped raise awareness in my child’s school and friends and family.
  • Reminding people that dementia affects all communities.
  • Helped me to think of activities to use with clients.
  • Helping moving grandma.
  • I am a care home manager. It has not only aided me in supporting the individuals within the home but also my staff team in giving them guidance and support. My team also benefits from them individually and as a group in improving understanding and the quality of care they deliver.
  • Often very useful if talking to a carer of a person with dementia, to be able to show them a visual
    representation of what’s being discussed. This can make it easier for them to retain the information.
  • Helps to reinforce in house training topics in a fun way.
  • Used for delirium package, used to help fellow colleagues access key issues or structure their work or thinking. Saved me time constructing my own.
  • Helping me to overcome and manage my feelings of frustration and anger and guilt as observed through your advice on how to better modify my reactions and behaviour to cope with my mum’s dementia.
  • Used to capture complexity in a succinct way.
  • Getting conversations going about the language we use when talking about BPSD and helping staff generate new positive approaches.
  • Staff training, both in their professional and private lives
  • Negative vs positive language – have used the infographic to support carers to communicate more effectively and change views on negative labelling.
  • Simple and clear graphics support staff understanding and help me to focus on what is important to and for a person.
  • The feedback and sharing of your info graphics is always great when I put one on social media.
  • Students benefit enormously from all of the infographics especially those relating to person centred care in
    dementia- makes it easier for them to grasp a holistic view.
  • I deliver dementia awareness training in my trust and find they have a positive impact in training as they are so visual.
  • I use the infographics to develop my understanding of some subjects and I share this with my wider community.
  • They stimulated conversation and questions when I displayed several of the infographics During Dementia Action Week at the Acute Hospital Trust.
  • Shared some with families such as communication and dementia carers and dementia.
  • Your infographics are clear and eye-catching, and they are meaningful – many of my audience respond well to them. Personally, I find them to be very informative and I hope that my audience will learn from them as the share them too.
  • They are all so easy to understand & visually beautiful. They set your work apart from others Thank you.
  • The information is very simple, very clear and easy to understand. I don’t have to read pages and pages just to find out about one thing.
  • I share your infographics through social media. Reliably, yours are among those receiving the most re-
    tweets/shares and positive comments.

If you have received training from our organisation what difference has this made to your practice?

  • I received my education from Indiana University. I can state that your Infographics have a positive effect with the caregivers and also PLWD.
  • I feel I have a much better understanding of Dementia and I am confident to educate others of what I have learnt in a more detailed and informative manner.
  • It’s really helped. As the dementia champion I feel more knowledgeable and feel more confident in providing the best care for people with dementia.
  • Made a huge impact in the best possible way! I now have so much knowledge and understanding that people will approach me for advice.
  • Confident, competent, knowledgeable, engaged staff.
  • It has improved the quality of care we deliver. The training is always great, and the IDEAS team do an amazing job in identifying training/ areas of awareness needing to be highlighted.
  • A much greater understanding resulting in a more compassionate relationship with clients.
  • Enhances and maintain safe practice and empower staff to challenge poor practices.
  • My view about caring changed into good, and made me wants to study nursing to progress my career to helping people in the community and also at home.
  • Improving language used to communicate about Dementia, better skills of recognizing warning signs of distress and managing behaviour that challenges.
  • I’ve learnt a lot of new skills from how to progress in my work place and succeed as a care supervisor.
  • Your autism course was one of the best courses I have attended and having Andy (autistic individual) in to explain his story made things a lot clearer.
  • The training was very useful and the trainer was excellent.
  • The last bit when the autistic person told us about his experience with autism was great.
  • I found the training like a revelation. The presentation by the autistic person was eye opening and very beneficial.
  • I have felt the training very useful as I learn well visually. The trainers have always made me feel very comfortable and the atmosphere is relaxed. I love the ways in which questions can be easily introduced into the learning session and if not always relevant for the particular matter it will still be addressed even if it is later in the course. No one is made to feel silly or lack skills as most of the coursed have a diverse mix of people attending. I have enjoyed the learning session as it has given me more confidence in which i am able to carry out my work.
  • Following equality & diversity- it has allowed me to integrate and discuss current discrimination issues and able to ensure I am inclusive with activity planning for our community groups for people living with dementia.
  • Have made a list and handed to the home manager so that we get an outstanding in our next CQC inspection. This list is what is missing at the home.
  • We have found that going on most of your course’s we are able to cascade all the information to our other staff members. We have been able to share all the Nutrition information with the staff and residents here at XXX to educate and support them. The Dementia course was great to look out for sign and symptoms.
  • The trainers are so engaging and knowledgeable I am always so keen to sign up to the next available course. Trish delivered my Safeguarding training which was so enjoyable and very engaging. Therefore when I saw she was delivering the learning disability course I had to get on to it.
  • We have improved our practise a lot by reducing admission to hospital, reducing antipsychotic, reducing falls. Therefore we have improved communication with staff.
  • It was extremely useful to attend training delivered by someone who understood the political climate and could debate how changes to the policies and procedures had come about rather than just delivering an overview.
  • There were times when I was bullied, this training has helped me get my confidence back and to deal with situations myself.
  • It really did open my eyes to the whole dementia topic. Tricia was great at delivering the session. Entertaining and informative. Thoroughly enjoyed.
  • This Course has personally supplied me with tools to cope when assessing the level of care necessary for these very vulnerable people. I have a husband who sadly has very aggressive Alzheimer’s disease so for me the study day with Caroline has been hugely helpful.
  • Was able to put some useful information and techniques I learned into practice immediately. Great course.
  • I wish all trainers could deliver learning so effectively and enjoyably. Best trainer I’ve ever had in my career.
  • Even better than day before loved it, so interesting I learned so much could have stayed longer. Went so quick.

And Finally, this is what people had to say:

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Andy Rotherham’s Autism Blog – The Gifts of Autism

For this edition of my blog I will be exploring and explaining the ‘gift’ side of Autism. This is something that is sadly overlooked by many employers, resulting in the full potential of the Autistic workforce being undervalued and under-utilised.

My own story very much fits this pattern. But more about me later. First some background;


Autistic people often feel invisible in society and as such are ignored or dismissed. Our skills and intelligence are very rarely recognised because we don’t communicate in a Neurotypical way. Yet, many great minds who have contributed significantly to the development of mankind displayed signs and symptoms of what would now be recognised as Autism.

Hans Asperger himself said, “It seems that for success in science or art, a dash of autism is essential.”

Personal Experience with Autism

I was diagnosed as Autistic almost 6 years ago, at the age of 50. As one who slipped through the proverbial net and who struggled to understand both myself and the reactions of other people to me, the diagnosis was quite a revelation. Once I had come to terms with what it meant, researched it to the “nth” degree and dealt with the co-morbid anxiety I had been living with my entire life to that point, I made a decision: To hell with what had gone before and all the people who hadn’t recognised my talents or intellect. I was going to make my Autism work for me. I was going to take the things it gave me and use them to make my life from that point happy and fulfilling. So, what did I do?

  1. I got rid of all the things and people who made me unhappy. The first thing I did was quit working for an employer who had caused me great anguish by failing to support my sensory needs and by refusing to accept that I could even be Autistic, despite having a copy of my official diagnosis! I didn’t fit with their preconceived ideas of what Autism is.
  2. I cut communication with people who brought drama and conflict into my life.
  3. I rebuilt myself both physically and mentally to a healthy place.
  4. I then set about making myself happy.

I started looking at all the things I wanted to do as hobbies, but never had the time. I have always loved music, now I could take the time to teach myself to play to a level I was happy with.

I loved guitars and had an idea swimming around in my head for some time for a custom shaped bass guitar. A Yellow Submarine, as per The Beatles animated film. Trouble is I am the guy who was kicked out of Woodwork at school as I was told I would always be useless and never be able to make anything with my hands. It was going to be a sharp learning curve, but I believed I could do it.

Before each stage in the project, I researched thoroughly. I found that I have the ability to think through an action and rehearse the method many times before I would put tool to wood. I can carry out these rehearsals during lucid dreaming. I can go to bed thinking about the problem and wake up the next morning having ironed out all aspects of the process to the point where I can do it without any further physical preparation.

Once I had the wooden structure complete, I learnt to paint it, with a mixture of techniques from spray can to fine brush work. I taught myself how to do guitar electrics, fitting the pickups and controls. Then came the stringing of it and setting the bass up so it played easily and sounded good.

I also found that I could use this lucid dreaming technique to learn how to play songs. I found this out when I was struggling with a song and I abandoned my efforts and went to bed. I remember very well in my lucid dream that I was stood with my bass on and the song was playing. I could pause, rewind and isolate certain instruments, as if I was in front of a multi-track mixing desk. I replayed a note I was struggling with, looked down at the fretboard and moved my hand up and down until I found it. Then I moved onto the next note. I woke up in the morning and told my Wife what had happened. I couldn’t wait to find out if it would translate to actually playing it. We both went into my music room, I picked up a bass and sure enough I was able to play the song perfectly!

As people learnt of my new skills, I started getting requests from fellow musicians to work on their guitars and basses. This led onto being approached by the Guitarist of a popular band and asking me to service and set up his guitars for him. I relished the opportunity, although of course there is self-imposed pressure to be perfect in everything I do. In my work for him this is heightened. I was also asked by the band to work ad-hoc at their studio to help with the day to day running of the place when needed.

This last summer we carried out a big building and renovation project at their studio complex, which saw me build internal walls from timber and plasterboard. I learnt how to do it the evening before from a 10-minute YouTube video, most of which I fast forwarded through. And, yes, you’ve guessed, by building them many times in my sleep…

The real upside of this hard work was I could set up a workshop in one of the newly partitioned rooms. I built a guitar workbench from left over timber in one day and covered it with carpet and a large ceramic tile for soldering on. I now find myself employed for a band whose music I love. People I both like and respect, and who really value me for my skills and abilities. I am looking after the whole guitar and bass collection the band own. Each day brings its own set of challenges, but I love learning as I do them. I have found that I have a real gift for restoration particularly. I am currently bringing back to life a beautiful 1976 Rickenbacker bass. Yesterday was a Spanish/Classical guitar.

Of course, being Autistic, I am a collector and have a house full of guitars and basses of my own… Although I do need to draw this in it is a small price to pay to have discovered gifts, I never knew I had, skills I never thought I could learn and a hobby that has turned into my dream job!


There are reasonably common gifts that accompany Autistic individuals, like Pattern Thinking, Visual Learning, Attention to Detail, Extreme Levels of Concentration, Loyalty and Honesty and a Deep Passion and Knowledge on their Special Interest.

Less common ones include Savantism and High IQ.

But like all things Autism related there is no standard. Some may have many of these gifts, some one or two and some none. As Dr Stephen Shore said, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
What unites us all however is Out of the Box thinking, the ability to think freely without the constraints of established thinking or social norms.

What society and the employers who haven’t caught on yet need to understand is that the Autistic Mind is a relatively untapped resource. Given the right environment, encouragement and tasks specifically related to the gifts they possess we are a most loyal, productive and hardworking addition to the workforce.

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine,” Alan Turing.Share Us

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