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12 - Planning For Better

Planning Together For Better

How do you support someone whose faith in people has been undermined? A neurodivergent person who has been incarcerated in an Assessment and Treatment Unit against their will. A person who, for good reason, feels betrayed and angry and has no belief that people are reliable and will do as they say.

Well, for a start you commit to being reliable and doing as you say you will. Mistakes will happen that will cause setbacks but be honest, apologise and work out how not to do it again. Stick with it, keep working out how to do better, be better; earn the person’s trust. Be what you need to be to help them feel safe.

That work gets you so far but how do you ensure that person is directing their life and their support and that you are working to fulfil their definition of their good life? Person centred planning helps us identify the North Star for each person, it guides their support. It ensures there is a common goal all who know and care for the person recognise and understand.

How do you plan with someone whose faith in people, particularly professionals, has been undermined? You plan in whatever way makes sense for them. That’s it!

This is a story of planning from 20 years ago.

Matthew was that confused and angry young man. With his family, we supported him to move from an Assessment and Treatment Unit into his new home. For over 6 months we worked hard to build relationships and earn some trust, everything was a bit fragile, turbulent and even combustible at times.

It was clear we needed to look forward, to plan for a better future, to work out what good would look like for Matthew and his family so that we all had a common idea of what we were trying to achieve together.

Matthew has an encyclopaedic memory for pop facts, dates, and lyrics. He was very keen on a particular television quiz show, Night Fever. This was the seed for his planning session. It was important that M felt in control of the process and didn’t feel people were telling him what to do. That was a red flag. So, this is how it went.

Matthew’s Planning

The session was planned at date and time (Saturday afternoon) that suited Matthew and his family. He invited the people he wanted to attend. The theme was the Night Fever quiz show. Attendees were requested to attend dressed as a singer / band-member who had reached No.1 in the pop charts during the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s. It was held in a hotel and the room was suitably decorated with disco lights etc.

Matthew had, along with his dad, made up the quiz questions. He was the Quiz Master. There were two teams and a flip chart paper on the wall with different areas of life written on them: relationships, holidays, work, family, home community, health etc.

Matthew asked a pop quiz question. If the team got it right, they got the chance to suggest an idea for an area of life, draw or write it on a post it and place it on the wall. If Matthew agreed with the suggestion the Team got a point, if not they had to sing a karaoke number as a forfeit.

Matthew stayed in the room, we planned together, he agreed some things we could work on together to make his life better. He was in control. We did what we needed to do to make it work.

Matthew has continued to plan and to direct his support. He has not needed or wanted it to take this form since. His life is very different, his support is different. We all change when we are afforded the opportunity.


I was speaking to Matthew about writing this blog and we were reminiscing about that planning session. During the conversation, he reminded me that I had ‘had words with him’ that day about giving his mum and dad a hard time. I didn’t remember. He did.

He said the reason he was anxious was the hotel looked like an institution. He was scared that we were ‘fed up with him and were going to leave him there’.

Despite his anxiety, he walked across the threshold. How humbling is that! After such a relatively short time, despite the grief and trauma he had experienced he trusted us enough to take that terrifying step.

I asked him if there was anything that had tipped the balance that day and he said, ‘Well I did think you wouldn’t have got dressed up if you were going to leave me’. Sometimes we do not really understand the importance of doing the things people ask us to do.

It might be better for everyone if we just tried to say yes more often and do it.

By Sam Smith (C-Change CEO)

Planning Together For Better (audio narration)

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