Lisa Morris, Registered Manager in Kent, talks about her experiences of setting up a new support service in the South East.

We believe strongly that there is always a solution or a different way to respond to opportunities and dilemmas.

The opportunity we were given was to support six men – between the age of 22 and 38, all with mental health issues – through a daily support package of nine shared support hours a day, in smaller packages of support, for seven days a week between 9am and 6pm, in their own homes.

I identified the skills, personal qualities, and interests of the existing staff team drawing on the person-centred thinking tool - Matching Support, so that we could ensure we had the best person to support the men.

The men had been living in mental health acute settings that they now didn’t require. As they needed their own homes, the council, with a housing provider, developed a set of six self-contained flats. After meeting each of the men I found out very quickly that the task and goal based approach that we were used to taking was not going to work. Using a range of person-centred thinking tools to structure conversations, I was able to get a good idea of how best to support them.

We put together what a perfect week would look like with each person, if they were supported in ways that worked for them to remain healthy and safe, as well as including things that were important to them.

Core themes, from what the men told me, were to base support on delivering continuity, building gradual trusting relationships, and being supported by people that have the skills to help them remain well and safe.

The fact that all of the men are now living in their own homes is a real achievement, but it is the little things we are noticing – from people asking for support when they need it, to remaining in contact with family and building on these relationships.

If I was going to sum up what I have learnt through providing this support, I would say:

  1. You need to see possibilities and have a ‘can do’ attitude.
  2. Take a chance with others.
  3. Work in partnership with others in a clear and flexible manner – tell people when things are working or when they are not.
  4. Work together to sort out solutions to problems along the way.
  5. Make sure you work in a person-centred manner to see the things that really matter to a person and keep your eye on this so that you do not slip into service-based solutions.
  6. Focus on supporting the team to do more of what they do well.