Stories from Sheffield by Andrew Crooks

Collecting Stories from Sheffield’s Partners for Inclusion – or are they Agents of Change? By Andrew Crooks

Andrew Crooks

Andrew Crooks

I am Andrew Crooks, a new member of staff at Care Opinion where part of my work is about engaging with people on our independent feedback site, including: service users; carers; commissioners; and providers. It just so happens I am also a disabled person who uses adult social care services.

In Sheffield I have been working with different user groups and individuals who use social care. One of these groups, Partners for Inclusion (PfI) offered to help me run a service user engagement workshop.

PfI are a user led disability consultation group who work in partnership with the local authority and local health authorities in Sheffield. The group mostly works with people with a physical impairment and normally deal with issues relating to this user group. However, for the purposes of this wider engagement event we jointly sought to cover all disabled people and the workshop was attended by people with learning difficulties, people with mental health problems, people with sensory impairment and those with other impairments.

There were 20 individuals attending the workshop, most of whom wanted to take their story leaflets with them and/or use the website to feedback in their own time. Collectively they also wanted to collect their points of view as a group and post onto Care Opinion in order to provide feedback to commissioners and providers. I thought there would be many others who like some insight into our early work in social care and read about it in this short little blog.

One lady with visual impairment spoke about the lack of training or skills in care homes for older people where, as someone with a sight impairment and Disability Equality Trainer she talked about the way she was left to find her own way around one care home, with whom she was working with. As an example, she told the group, “One member of staff directed me to the elevator by saying it’s down there on the left”, instead of being guided there by a staff member who, given the group of clients she was working with, should have had training in how to escort people with visual impairment”.

Another carer also spoke about her aunt’s recent experience with her GP where, following a call out to her aunt there had been confusion about the follow up action where the GP’s call had not been logged and her Aunt had stopped taking her medication. Despite being confident that the GP did call and gave of some advice to her Aunty, she had misgivings about allowing her Aunty’s ability to undertake directions without the aid of help in recording instructions for medication. As her Aunty’s primary carer it was agreed she would be copied into such decisions.

The workshop was attended by service users who all had concerns about, in their words, ‘the lack of advocacy’ available to people with learning difficulties. All of them were particularly eager to pursue issues with regards to A&E departments.

Hospital signage proved problematic for some but by far the biggest issue was around the way people with learning difficulties are sometimes treated. Many spoke about this issue and we recorded one example where someone goes into A&E finds it difficult to talk to others when under pressure. It was highlighted the effects of this can be hugely upsetting to someone with a significant learning difficulty.

CO Logo LeafletMany people said GPs should be more active with someone who has a LD and be prescriptive and be more predictive about the treatment and help someone with LD needs. Make sure people have a ‘Hospital Passport’ but people with LD want to see more evidence of how some staff are trained to deal with people with LD in a non-patronising and efficient manner just like everyone else.

One participant who submitted his story said he was a personal budget holder through SDS with Sheffield City Council. He said he got to choose his agency by interviewing the staff of the agencies. He said he was even more impressed when they then made sure he got to interview and get introduced to care staff who would be his nominated carers. He told Care Opinion this also includes an introduction to any new carers that may be introduced to him when his usual carers are on holidays and/or staff sickness. By coincidence one other service user used the same service provider but they reported they had felt they had been given unresponsive service because he was someone who paid for his own care.

During the workshop we took feedback from people who spoke highly about the Neurological Outreach Team Service. One individual felt they received a great service from NES service and experienced good joined up working with Neurology department and social care services. One individual suggested access to social services should be more universal. Everyone agreed with this and although the consensus was that this was a difficult time for funding services – everyone felt those who needed care should receive it.

Such as one gentleman present who was desperately waiting on the outcome of the legal challenge being made by five people against the government’s decision to abolish the Independent Living Fund (ILF) . I say desperate because as the gentleman said, this could mean him losing his independence. He said he might end up back in some kind of institutionalised care setting, sheared of support to play an active role in the local community. The gentleman is an active member of PfI and attends as a Board member for Disability Sheffield Centre for Independent Living.

He would have been 1 of 200 individuals in Sheffield who would have been had to be added to the other social care recipients supported by Sheffield City Council. Where on earth, I ask, would the poor beleaguered council would find the £1m or so annual bill on top of the abysmal cuts already made to local social care budgets – through no fault of their own I hasten to add?

I would like to thank those who attended the workshop, which gathered great feedback, good and bad, to which commissioners and providers might respond. Care Opinion is particularly grateful to PfI for their co-hosting, to Healthwatch Sheffield for their contribution and support for those taking part.

There are plenty of stories about social care on the Care Opinion website.

The £320m ILF currently provides support enabling nearly 19,000 severely disabled people in the UK to live independent lives in the community. The Government planned to close the scheme in 2015 and new claimants were stopped abruptly

Andrew Crooks
Engagement & Support Officer, Care Opinion
Care opinion’s website can be found at:


One thought on “Stories from Sheffield by Andrew Crooks

  1. I’d say agents of change. We have a similar set up in Essex run by Essex Coalition of Disabled People and Independent Living Advocacy. Both of whom assist, support and advise people who want to go for a personal budget. It’s a good set up that aims and manages to give a voice to those who are often sidelined by society. You can follow ECDP on twitter @ecdp. Baring in mind the push toward integrated care services I believe that your organisation and those like it could play a central role in bringing the needs and concerns of those you support to the fore so that the system can be built around them.

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