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Listening better and working smarter: Dimensions Council is changing

Paul Davies and Ann McCallum are co-chairs of the Dimensions council, the national representative body of people supported by Dimensions. They explain why, and what happens next

Dimensions Council is well thought of. Why does it need to change?

Dimensions Council has certainly achieved some great things over the years. The Social Care Charter. Work on personal money and personal safety. But the price of success is that everyone wants a bit of you… and Council has become overloaded with demands. This puts pressure on agendas, and also on Council members – and a number of people have even resigned, saying the role had become too difficult.

We need to work together to make sure that the Council tackles the key questions, maintains its governance role in notifying the Board of priorities, and of course supports its own members to be the best that they can be.

What does a typical Dimensions Council meeting look like?

All meetings are different. But feedback from regional representatives about activity in their area takes up a large amount of time, and much of the rest has been dominated by internal staff wanting to consult Council on various topics. So Council’s own agenda items were getting lost. Council was in danger of becoming reactive, not proactive.

OK. So what will change? 

At this stage we don’t know exactly. We have done lots of work together exploring what has worked well and what ideas we have for change. We are still going through a review process and we have some smaller groups of Council members, staff and the Involvement team working on some new ideas. We’re not just asking current Council members – anyone with a learning disability who wants to get involved would be welcome. For example, some Quality Consultants attended the last meeting to put their views across.

We’re also experimenting with new ways of hearing everyone’s voice, to ensure that all people can speak and not always through a support worker.
It is fairly clear that the Council’s Terms of Reference will need to change to reflect these ambitions.

Have any decisions been made yet?

Well, we know we want to change the relationship with the local Everybody Counts groups and the Council itself. Although the same people may well continue as the representative from their local group, we will no longer be expecting people to feedback from their local groups at Council. We think this will free up time and energy for members to concentrate on the big issues Council has identified. Everybody Counts groups will continue to lead on tacking local issues as they do currently. And of course there are lots of other ways for people to be supported locally to have their voice heard and to make sure that it is heard at the top of the organisation. For example, person centred reviews and working together for change. It’s not all about the Council!

We also want to ensure that everyone who wants to get involved with Council, can do so. Right now membership is exclusive to Everybody Counts reps, which we think excludes a lot of talented people. So we will be working on new membership criteria. This will include exploring new ways to engage people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, whose views are harder to represent in a more traditional style meeting.

Lastly we know that some things will definitely not change. Council will still be represented at Board. Everybody Counts and Dimensions’ other local representative groups will be unaffected. It’s important that Localities, Areas and the Regions continue to work hard to find creative ways to involve people, so that they can really impact on how the organisation runs. The leaders of local Everybody Counts groups will still be able to attend Council in their own right. So we are very much opening things up for more people to get involved.

They are quite fundamental changes…

That’s true. Council has a mandate to deliver change to benefit the people we support, and we think it could do even better. We hope the changes will really allow it to have the influence it deserves as a group. We also want it to be a place where people feel comfortable, valued, influential and have a good time!

What happens next?

Well, we are going through a consultation period to look at things like the Council’s purpose, It’s ways of working, its membership and its agenda management process. Over the next couple of months we will be making the changes we have agreed, experimenting with new ideas and learning together what can really make a difference. If you have something to contribute to these discussions we would love to hear from you. You are welcome to join in the discussions, why not come and join us:, 07789 868540 and Ann McCallum,

Thank you Paul and Ann.