My Experience

I am a health and social care practitioner, based in Oxford. I work as an independent facilitator, trainer, writer and speaker. I am a registered social worker and an accredited interpersonal mediation practitioner. I have been employed for more than thirty years as a manager and from 1999 as a commissioner of health and social care services, with particular experience in relation to people with mental health issues and people with learning difficulties. I have experience of working with local authorities across England and have a good working relationship with many national and international leaders in the field of self-directed support and personalisation. I began my career in East London and worked for both East Sussex and West Sussex County Councils.

I am passionate about the mission of transforming a system which consigns many citizens to the margins of society and suggests that they have nothing to offer. ‘Personalised support’ is necessary as an alternative to the old system – but it is not sufficient. We also need respect, sensitivity, and a recognition of the depths of our common humanity. Perhaps most important, we need to actively listen to individuals who use services and to their families and friends. Ultimately, we need to shift power and decision making into the hands of ordinary citizens – and recognise that paid staff are there to support them, not to run their lives. My experience suggests that there remains a role for skilled professionals in this process, but we need to radically re-think the nature of that role.

Working for In Control

Between 2005 and 2011 I worked for the organisation In Control, which under Simon Duffy’s leadership pioneered personal budgets in the UK. I held a variety of roles for In Control, including leading the social care programme with 120 English local authority members. I also led work on personalised commissioning, the role of professional social work and on helping people use their personal budgets to get a real job.

Writing

I enjoy writing and editing and have had more than twenty articles published over the years in a range of journals. I wrote or edited many of In Control’s publications. In 2011 I edited and co-wrote a book with friends from the independent living movement entitled, ‘Personalisation and Learning Disabilities’ (OLM Pavilion, February 2011).

Recent and Current work

I am now work as an associate for a number of organisations, all of which seek (in slightly different ways) to build support arrangements one person at a time – in ways which are genuinely responsive to those individuals’ hopes, dreams and wishes – based upon a meaningful conversation about who that person really is.

Since 2013 I have spent a part of each week working for Volunteering Matters. The project work I have undertaken includes work on the Voluntary Sector Strategic Partners Programme, where we focused on the contribution volunteers might make in building community capacity and in assuring quality in care services. From spring 2017 I am working to assist Volunteering Matters and their partners in the Voluntary Voices coalition to promote voluntary and community sector engagement in the delivery of personal budgets and personal health budgets, under NHS England’s Integrated Personal Commissioning Programme.  .  .

From early 2016 I am working as an associate of the National Development Team for Inclusion, as part of a programme which seeks to re-imagine social care as an enterprise that is owned and guided by ordinary citizens, and which has its foundation in local people and their communities.  This Community Led Support programme promises to build on the learning from more than ten years of self-directed support and bring this together with strengths or asset based thinking in community work. This work programme is led by Jenny Pitts, a former colleague from In Control, and we are currently supporting around a dozen councils across England, Scotland and Wales to test and embed these ideas.  I am particularly interested in thinking about how these ideas work for “specialist” staff, notably those working with adults with learning difficulties or disabilities and those with mental health issues.

In May 2017 I began working with another former colleague, Caroline Tomlinson who is founder and CEO of My Life Support in the towns of Wigan and Leigh.  I am looking forward to helping Caroline and her colleagues develop and articulate a vision and a plan for the organisation which will build better more inclusive communities in the towns in the years to come

Andrew Tyson,  June 2017