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User-led in word and in deed: How Dimensions walks the walk

Here’s how a chance encounter with an old colleague brings an opportunity for us to learn, develop and to get better.

Involvement and Engagement Manager, Tracey Garcia, blogs.
Involvement and Engagement Manager, Tracey Garcia, blogs.

Today a colleague of mine attended a Transforming Care event being run by NHS England. As the 100+ delegates settled expectantly into their seats, he was surprised to see an old workmate take the podium.

Not just any old workmate either – Carl, a man with a learning disability, who was employed by Dimensions as an Expert by Experience for several years before being snapped up by the NHS (and I don’t blame them!)

Carl was one of two Experts by Experience (Dimensions calls them Quality Consultants) to have moved on to new roles in the past year. Whilst Carl himself was a big loss and we were sad to see him go, we continued on our journey to employ more people in similar roles.

Carl presenting at the conferance
Carl proudly presenting at the conference

Since the turn of the year, Dimensions has more than doubled its learning disabled workforce – from 20 people to 40 and with more in the pipeline.  That’s 40 Experts by Experience quality checking places where people live, interviewing and training new staff, and generally driving a user-led Dimensions culture.

Their roles are far from ceremonial – indeed, Dimensions recently failed to fill a senior executive post because the candidates didn’t pass muster during the supported interview with the quality consultants.

As one delegate at a recent induction training day observed, “I never expected to receive training from people Dimensions supports and who are also employed by Dimensions. I was so glad to have this chance to hear what they said, and what they expected from us. Sometimes we misunderstand what the people expect from us, we learn all the time from them.”

Dimensions Quality Consultants’ unique insight and honest unbiased opinions have enabled us to be led by them in so many ways.  Having a team of experts who are working and earning and building up a work history – not to mention sharing their own experiences in order for us to improve, understand and appreciate others – is something that I am so proud to be part of.

The expanding network of Quality Consultants is one part of a wide ranging review of how Dimensions involves people with learning disabilities and autism, and their family and friends, in the culture, process and policies of the organisation. We have other ways too:

The Dimensions Council

The Dimensions Council is a representative group of people supported by Dimensions is undergoing a major change to increase the ability of people we support to voice their opinion and have it heard both inside and beyond the organisation’s boundaries. Ann McCallum and Paul Davies, Co-chairs of the Council, discuss the changes here.

The Dimensions Family and Friends Forum

The Dimensions Family and Friends Forum is looking hard at how it can be more representative and more effective at both national and local level. Sue Kirkman, mother of a person supported by Dimensions and Chair of the National Forum, discusses the changes here.

Learning Disability England

We were highly instrumental in setting up new self-advocacy group which looks set to become the political mouthpiece for people with a learning disability. Jackie Fletcher, Dimensions Director of Quality and Compliance, offers her hopes for LDE here.

But perhaps the final word should go to Carl, bringing us back full circle. In a heartfelt leaving speech, Carl said that until he was employed by Dimensions he had never felt he could do anything, never felt he had anything to offer. He said he was humbled to be offered a job. From there to compiling major events tackling one of NHS England’s key priorities.

He said he was humbled to be offered a job. From there to compiling major events tackling one of NHS England’s key priorities. Wow. Now who’s humbled?