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Over the past few years Cornerstone and Talking Mats have been developing a resource to allow anyone using their services to be more involved in recruiting their own support staff enabling them to express what personal qualities, skills/knowledge and behaviours are important to them.

Why was there a need for this resource?

Colleagues Kerri Bellingham (Recruitment coordinator) and Debbie Masson (HR Projects and Research Advisor) knew involvement was a big part of their organisational ethos but believed they ‘could do it even better’.

This together with feedback from a person supported by Scottish organisation Cornerstone prompted two team members to re-examine the process of recruitment and how everyone can be more involved

Scottish Charity Cornerstone has been providing care and support for people with learning disabilities, autism and complex care needs across Scotland for over 40 years.  The Organisation prides itself on putting the people it supports at the heart of service delivery.  There is a strong ethos of offering choice and control ensuring care and support is person-centred.

Kerri and Debbie set out to create an approach that would directly reflect the National Involvement Network Charter;

“We want to be involved in choosing the people who support us.  This includes our support worker, key worker, managers and other staff, volunteers and our advocates.  This means we must have the choice to be involved in; writing job descriptions and person specifications, planning interview questions, taking part in interviews and deciding who gets the job”

(NIN Charter, statement 5)

The aims for the recruitment resource were for people supported by Cornerstone to;

  • be more involved in recruiting their own staff if they want to be
  • be given the freedom and ability using these tools to express what values, skills and behaviours are important to them, and feel they are being listened to
  • gain new skills and increase their confidence
  • develop a ‘best-match’ approach that would identify ideal candidates suited to an individual’s support needs, preferences and interests with a view to improving outcomes and continuity of care

Providing a way for the supported person to communicate their opinions is where Talking Mats came in. 


Development of any new Talking Mats resource requires research and careful planning. A focus group was held with people who received services from Cornerstone and the staff that supported them. There was a lot of discussion about what would be a given, for example, being kind, caring or compassionate as well as other key attributes.  A lot of flip chart paper was used but the group was happy with the structure agreed on.

The 3 topics agreed on were:                     


This topic asks the thinker (the person supported) to consider their interests and the activities they enjoy, or goals they would like to achieve, so these can be considered in the matching process.  These requirements can then form part of the role profile and / or also inform the interview questions. 

Skills / Knowledge

Again, this allows for appropriate description of role, for example noting if driving skills are required, would competence and knowledge of technology be helpful , or have they a good understanding of the local community so socialising or networking can be promoted and local activities or opportunities maximised?

Type of Person

This topic can also contribute to a Person Specification but the concepts are more abstract, and the thinker considers what attributes in a potential support worker are important to them.

Kerri, Debbie and everyone involved in the project believe this tool will “enable us to more closely match the people we support with their ideal member of staff whilst ensuring they have a pivotal role in the process”.

Cornerstone are looking for Organisations to help them trial this new resource.  If you are interested and are an organisation who provide residential or day care and want to involve service users in

  1. recruitment and /or

    2. reviewing their care package and give feedback on their staff

then please get in touch by the 21st of July. We will send you the resource and in return we ask that you use it at least 2 times between now and October provide feedback. Please contact