Over the past 9 months Rhona and I have been delighted and privileged to work on the Charter for Involvement with members of The National Involvement Network (NIN) . The NIN is a Scottish wide group of people with learning disabilities who want to have more say over the services they use
They have developed the Charter for Involvement. This Charter has 12 clear statements that set out how people want to be involved in their own lives, their services and their communities. For example
- Statement 2- We have the right to be live our lives independently
- Statement 3 –We must be involved in our communities.
Organisations from a wide range of settings sign up to the Charter and commit to ensure their services put the statements into practice, as they are relevant to people everywhere. ARC Scotland is the organisation that supports the work of the NIN.
At a Scottish Government Keys to Life event at the Scottish Parliament James Fletcher Director of ARC Scotland and Lois got talking about how we could help services reflect on the extent they were meeting the Charter aims from the perspective of people who need extra support with communication, and the seeds of this project were sown. Feedback was it can be difficult for organisations to support the people who use their services to become truly connected and involved in the local community . In addition there can be a tension about supporting people to be more independent and autonomous when we live in a risk averse service culture.
Could we develop a Talking mat that would allow members of the NIN to explore statements 2 and 3 of the Charter . What aspects of living independently and being involved in their community were going well for them and what aspects were not going so well? Keys to Life was recognising the importance of social connectedness and the subsequent ARC application for money to do this in partnership with Talking Mats was successful .
Developing the Talking Mat
The first task in creating a Talking Mats is to unpick the meaning in this case the meaning of the two statements . What do we mean when we say we are involved or that we are independent? What does successful involvement or independence look like? To explore this we held three seminars with NIN members in Edinburgh , Glasgow and then Dundee . The groups initially started with a blank sheet of paper on which we would mind map their thoughts and ideas.As the seminar progressed we would bring in ideas from the earlier groups and after much debate reached a consensus. It was recognised there were too many items for one Talking Mat. It was decided to create two Mats, one that would deal with words and symbols that were easier to understand and more likely to be in people’s lived experience
It included options such as Leisure centre, Neighbours ,Work/ volunteering. The other Talking Mat would contain the more abstract words and symbols . e.g Being accepted , Taking risks
It was recognised from the outset that there would be some people with a learning disability who would not be able to respond to the more abstract Talking Mat.
The Charter for Involvement has its own design and style and therefore it was agreed that The Talking Mat would fit into its brand and that we would work with their artist. The Talking Mats are called Taking Part (1 for the more concrete mat ) and Taking Part (2 for the more abstract) Once the Mat was created the training with Nin Members could commence but that is for another blog!