Disability Advocacy Project: A review of the work of the All Decisions Project Executive Summary

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1 Catherine McCarthy Disability Advocacy Project: A review of the work of the All Decisions Project Executive Summary Charity Registration No Photograph modelled for The Children s Society Georgie Scott

2 The Children s Society is a leading children s charity committed to making childhood better for all children in the UK. We take action to prevent, rescue and support children facing violence, neglect, poverty and discrimination in their daily lives. We give children the hope and confidence they need to face the future with optimism. We never turn away. 2

3 Introduction All children and young people have the right to have their views, wishes and feelings taken into account when decisions are made about their lives. The All Decisions project was a research and development project based at the Disability Advocacy Project. The overall aim of the project was to increase the number of disabled young people that are involved in decision-making processes. In the project s third year, The Children's Society s Research Unit undertook an evaluation of the All Decisions project. Over 100 young people, professionals and staff contributed to the review. The focus of the evaluation was assessing awareness and impact of the project s major outputs, including the: Disability Toolkit website; My Life, My Decisions, My Choice Young People s Learning Resources; Professional guidance on involving disabled young people in decision-making; Training programme for Integrated Disabled Children s Service Teams; Survey Report of London s Disabled Children s Teams Findings The project has produced a number of resources for the sector and for disabled young people themselves. These resources have been distributed across London and feedback has been positive, particularly towards the young people s guides, Disability Toolkit and the training programme. What Disabled Children and Young People Said During 2008, 30 disabled children and young people were consulted about the My Life, My Decisions, My Choice Young People s Resources. Young people liked the visual aspects of the guides, which facilitated comprehension of the material. Feedback also indicated that the guides 3

4 are appropriate and relevant to disabled young people. Young people felt that they would be able to use the guides to express their feelings and wishes to others. In-depth consultations were also conducted with a group of disabled young people at the Tower Project. A How to Guide which outlines each session has been produced and is available from the Disability Toolkit website. Disabled young people found the poster and learning cards useful but they often require more personalised support to tackle issues they face around decision-making. Decision-making is a complex topic to consult on. To successfully introduce resources requires a number of intensive, one-to-one sessions run by skilled professionals who can employ creative, flexible, inclusive methods, which recognise and respond to individuals needs. Consultation activities allowed participants to engage in discussions around decision-making. Feedback following each session showed that the majority of participants enjoyed the sessions as they were fun and also taught them about decision-making. Follow up sessions are recommended to empower individuals to take forward opportunities for exercising choice. Feedback from Professionals Feedback was sought from external professionals and internal staff. A summary of feedback from survey data is provided here, with detailed feedback available from the full evaluation report. The All Decisions project has been good at raising awareness around disabled young people s participation in decision-making. Resources were well received, particularly the Disability Toolkit and training programme. There was some evidence that the project s work has effectively changed professionals attitudes towards the participation of disabled young people in decision making. There were examples of Disabled Children s Teams (DCTs) implementing changes in practice but there are a number of challenges affecting DCTs ability to do this well, many of which fall outside the scope of the All Decision s work, such as staff changes; lack of time; lack of management engagement; and, competing priorities pushing this issue down organisation s agenda. 4

5 There was some evidence of wider information sharing, indicating that All Decision s work is positively viewed within the sector. Advocates stated that they have recommended the project s resources, such as the Disability Toolkit, to other professionals. The general consensus was that this project should continue and that DCTs need additional support and advice to effectively implement changes in practice. Feedback from internal staff focused on identifying areas of strength and factors impacting on success, which included the following: The provision of resources and networking opportunities strengthened wider sector capacity. Key ways this occurred, was through the Disability Toolkit, delivery of the training programme and the networking opportunities facilitated by the project. The skills, knowledge and commitment of staff working on the project have significantly contributed to the project s success. The project has raised the profile of Disability Advocacy Project s work as well as that of The Children's Society within the disability sector. The project has developed a number of networks across London, which has informed resource development and practice. Recommendations 1. Secure funding to keep the Disability Toolkit running and regularly updated (funding of 410,000 secured from DCSF for a national participation project with Shared Care and PACT). 2. Capacity Building - continue to provide capacity building and networking opportunities for the sector (the project has developed their training programme with The Children's Society PACT project to deliver nationally). 3. Empowering disabled young people - continue to facilitate improved knowledge, skills and confidence amongst disabled young people to exercise their rights (consultations with disabled young people have produced How To Guides, which will be available from Disability Toolkit but could also be incorporated into national training programme). 5

6 Further information A full copy of this report is available from The Children's Society s Research Unit or the Disability Toolkit The views expressed in this report are the author s and do not necessarily reflect those of The Children s Society. The Children s Society

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