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Turning rhetoric into action using strengths-based, person-centred working

ForMi is a person-centred planning app that helps people to take control and ownership of their plans and goals.

05/12/23

Turning rhetoric into action using strengths-based, person-centred working

Over many years we have heard the mantras about the importance of strengths-based working, solution-focused practices, person-centred planning, recording outcomes, co-production, focusing on ‘what matters’ to people, and joined-up working between professionals and agencies. But how do professionals deliver this in a way that is meaningful, whilst also facing the challenges of more cuts to services?

In 2018 Roger Rowett was working in North Wales as a consultant within social care, and came up with an idea that could turn these concepts into a reality…but, the ‘journey’ from an idea to reality is a long road. The concept centred on an innovative online tool that empowered and supported people to achieve their goals, whilst also allowing the service to evidence the impact of their interventions in a more efficient and ‘joined-up’ way.

Here2there.me was formed in 2019 and the first breakthrough came when Roger, and his partner Stuart who added technical support from his background in education, received financial support from the North Wales Transformation Project for Learning Disability Services, a Welsh Government backed project to transform how services were delivered. Funding was provided to pilot the tool and the development of the app ForMi within two learning disability providers in North Wales, including one Local Authority, because the app addressed the agenda around voice and control. The project then won £100k of R&D funding from the Welsh Government SBRI competition called ‘Better Lives Closer to Home’, and was one of three winners across Wales and England. This funded the project’s full development and pilots across a number of services, including four Local Authorities.

At its centre, ForMi is a person-centred planning and outcomes-recording tool that helps individuals or families take maximum control and ownership of their plan and goals. The system consists of an online control panel that allows the service to manage the process, together with an app that individuals (and their Circle of Support) use to capture their story of achievement in words and pictures. Note the word ‘story’ here, because although ForMi is essentially a piece of online technology, the foundations are built on meaningful conversations.

Individuals are supported (by a ‘mentor’) to record a strength-based profile, discussing what is important FOR them and TO them. This is then the catalyst for agreeing their goals, which are also rated on a 0-10 scale, similar to many other systems such as Outcome Star. Finally, a Circle of Support is agreed – people who can support the individual or family to achieve their goals. This will include professionals (often from different services) and could include other family members and friends.

Individuals then record their story of achievement in words and pictures via the ForMi app. This works in a very similar way to social media apps, putting up comments, pictures and videos of what they are doing against their goals. Their Circle of Support can then see this, via their own app, in real time – a little bit like ‘friends’ on Facebook. They can provide ongoing encouragement, and also ensure that they are working in a ‘joined-up’ way.

The final part of the process involves the mentor and the individual sitting down to review progress. They rate the goals again to provide some tangible ‘measure’ of how far they have come, but critically, all of the rich story from the app feeds in, to provide tangible evidence of progression.

Another aspect of ForMi is that outcomes can be measured against people’s personal goals (bottom up) and against any set of standardised outcome measures (top down). This ensures that goals are meaningful for both the individuals, and the organisational demands for performance monitoring.

Finally, one of the new developments for using ForMi has been to support staff development and wellbeing. The system has been piloted in a North Wales Housing Association with very promising early results. Some of the quotes from the staff team and HR include ‘It’s really useful to be able to see how people are doing and to give them kudos for moving things forward, all in a way that is quite quick and easy’ and ‘The levels of engagement with this has been high compared to other PDR processes we have trialled’. Given the challenges within social care in terms of supporting people’s wellbeing and staff retention, this is a really exciting application of ForMi for the future.

As for the four Local Authorities who were part of the pilot they are still using ForMi, three within learning disability services and one within intensive family support. Other organisations are also using the tool, including The Fostering Network for their pioneering new project, Step Up Step Down.

Roger said ‘the journey of developing ForMi has been exciting, rewarding and challenging. The greatest rewards have been seeing how individuals have benefitted from ForMi, and how it has allowed organisations to work in new and more efficient ways. The video from Denbighshire County Council’s Therapeutic Service is wonderful to see, especially the feedback from Kim (a parent) at the end. Torfaen County Council are also expanding the use of ForMi within day services for people with a learning disability and have a passionate belief in the way it empowers people to take control of their plans’.

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