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“Person-centred” approaches.

Whether these are to housing, health or social care, these approaches have monumentally shifted the relationship between individuals and the services that they receive. My report on how local authorities are responding to dementia highlights the need for this approach to move beyond rhetoric and truly work with those they are providing services for. Rather than fit into the system, the system should fit around them. Instead of reprioritising their needs, person-centred pledges do what they say on the tin: put people first.

This begs the question, “which people?” Well, those typically most marginalised is a good start. Individuals from racial / cultural minorities, those with cognitive impairment and LGBTQ+ persons to name a few. Essentially, anyone working against surplus barriers in the system, which are a direct result of their status on the margins.

This means we must work extra hard to break these barriers and produce truly person-centred services. Besides, it’s not just improving the services that they receive. It’s putting people at the centre of a system which has historically ignored them.

So, there’s clearly a lot at stake now that person-centred pledges are on the agenda.
There is a distinction to be made, however. Adding “promoting diversity and inclusion” on the backfoot of a commitment may seem progressive… But without a proactive and targeted approach to deliver this, these statements fall victim to being tokenistic. Having 80/279 housing authorities merely mentioning dementia in their housing policies is all good and well. But when only 41 of these actually do something with this name-dropping, the inclusion of dementia in the other 39 seems superficial.

 

What we say clearly matters.

The expectations of “person-centred” approaches proves this. However, what matters just as much is how we say them. Which language, in forms accessible to different people, with what assumptions and who we say them to. It’s one thing to recognise person-centred approaches as significant. But to genuinely deliver this, how we act on this recognition is equally as significant. If both what we say and how we say them is important, how can we be sure to get it right? What can we do to ensure that the services we produce are genuinely inclusive?

 

To put it simply: ask people.

Consultations, surveys and forums are simple ways of getting this input. Working with local groups from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, involving individuals and their families and carers throughout the entire process and ensuring everything is made accessible to those who are hardest to reach. Acting on these responses to tailor services to individuals. Ensuring no preferences “slip through the net.” Monitoring the outputs and feedback and using these to inform future practice. Rather than rinse and repeat, inform and adapt.

When boiled down to its essence, the person-centred approach is a cycle of asking and acting on the answers. People’s needs are not the same. They don’t fit neatly into a one-size-fits-all policy, approach or service. It’s time to stop guessing and start asking. When those most marginalised are no longer in the margins, inclusion may be less of an illusion and more of a reality.

Copies of Of More Than Marginal Interest: Dementia in Local Housing Policies can be downloaded at:  https://booklets.foundations.uk.com/dementia_and_dfg