Marketing Manager, Sharon Rees, Head of Care, James Flanagan and Head of Clinical Services, Lucy Wheen travelled to Birmingham on 20th January to represent Bryn Melyn Care at the latest Children and Young People Now Conference. The day, entitled Achieving Outcomes for Children: Evidence-Based Thinking in Practice, promised to be thought provoking and did not disappoint. The Bryn Melyn trio received keen interest in the newly developed Quality of Life Plan as they showcased our work at the exhibitor stand. The conference attracted professionals from a wide variety of children’s services and an equally varied programme of speakers and practice seminars.
After battling the M6 traffic and busy train carriages Sharon, James and Lucy were welcomed to the conference with refreshments and an inspiring opening speaker, Dez Holmes. Dez is the Director of Research in Practice and provided food for thought on what constitutes outcomes and who these outcomes belong too. Dez urged the audience to consider the context to our therapeutic work rather than sticking to the fidelity of a specific model simply because research suggests we should. She urged liberation in responding to individual needs in an informed and thoughtful way. A key reflection from her talk is for us to think about the distance a young person has travelled rather than ‘clinical’ and ‘non-clinical’ cut off scores.
The second speaker of the day was Ian Thomas, the Director of Children’s Services in Rotherham. Ian gave a talk on ‘Achieving more with less’ describing with passion and authenticity the challenges faced by Commissioners of Children’s services. Ian encouraged commissioners to embrace the freedom of innovation and support for specialist services. He identified the pitfalls of short term commissioning and suggested a 30-year focus to effectively impact on the delivery of high-quality children’s services.
Enver Soloman from the National Children’s Bureau encouraged the audience to think about evidenced-based policy and practice. He challenged the listeners to consider how they capture evidence in the work that that they do, including everyday conversations and interactions.
The last speaker before the practice seminar Options was Claire Woodford, Head of Children’s Services in Stockport. Claire gave an innovative talk on the success of services joining forces under the now called ‘Stockport Family’; a connected delivery of services for children and families in Stockport. Claire emphasised that in a truly integrated service the buck stops with everyone.
During the last slot before Lunch, a choice of three seminars awaited the Bryn Melyn Care delegates. Naturally they dispersed and Lucy appropriately chose the Mental Health Seminar. The seminar led by Matt Barnard from the Child Research Outcomes Consortium (CORC) described the difficult practicalities of monitoring psychological outcomes for children and young people. Matt concentrated the audience on the need to evidence the work we do and define the interventions. It is only when we know what we are doing and what we are trying to achieve (our goals) that we can demonstrate the value that our services add to the lives of young people in our care.
Lunch proved to be a conservative affair, however, offered lots of opportunities for delegates to peruse the sample Quality of Life plan and question the Bryn Melyn representatives on the work that we offer. The post-lunch slot was round two of the practice seminars. Lucy chose the invigorating talk by Carole Brookes, a performance improvement specialist, who gave a fresh perspective on the concept of ‘data’. Carole reminded the audience that statistics and graphs are not the richest forms of ‘data’. To create a truly rich picture of the work we do we must look at realistic outcomes, tracking the journey of a young person and considering what is achievable for them and why. Carole finished by reminding us all that the true reflection of a positive outcome is whether we would recommend the service to our friends and family.
The penultimate speaker Lily Caprani, from Unicef UK, gave a description of young people’s wellbeing in relation to the global context. Lily presented interesting findings on the impact of the economic climate and government policy on the lives of young people in the UK.
The conference reached a grand finale with a motivating presentation of the participation work carried out in Lincolnshire. Presented by Stuart Carlton, Assistant Director of Lincolnshire County Council, and two enthusiastic ‘Young Inspectors’ the final session outlined the contribution young people can and should make to shaping services that are fit for purpose. The Young Inspectors Programme in Lincolnshire uses young people themselves to evaluate and inspect services and the delegates heard how they had made real and tangible changes to the services they visited. A number of ‘top tips’ were given from AJ and Lucky, our top three memorable ones were;
1 – Listen- before you set plans or outcomes YOU want, listen to what outcomes WE want.
2 – One size doesn’t fit all- THINK about the individual
3 – GET REAL, tell the truth, accept there will be set backs, enjoy working with us and make it fun!
The roll out of our new therapeutic model; the “House Model of Parenting” and the Quality of Life Plan illustrate Bryn Melyn Care’s current focus on ‘getting it right’ for the young people in our care. These developments promise to help us demonstrate how we support the young people in our care to achieve their potential and reach their own goals. The conference reinforced our focus on the all-important voice of the young person. We will be introducing improvements to our outcome focused practice and we look forward to the contributions of all involved.