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The Charter for Involvement

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.

Partnership working

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.

Design style

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!