Taking a diverse approach to social care

On a recommendation from Debbie McColgan of Inspiring Scotland, I met with Pat Black of Diversity Matters, a voluntary sector organisation based in Edinburgh that builds capacity, facilitates project design, provides training and brings individuals and organisations together to examine ideas and find creative solutions to identified issues.

Diversity Matters work with individuals to identify what makes a good purposeful life for them and with organisations and agencies (e.g. social work departments) to investigate how to accommodate these elements within existing structures and processes.

Some innovative examples of individuals using a ‘personalised’ approach include a former addict who had retrained as a fitness instructor and wanted to cover up older unwanted tattoos that didn’t fit her new more positive body image. Another person needed oils and equipment to train as an acupuncturist and set up her own business. Subsequently she offered free sessions to other former drug users in exchange for the use of a treatment room in a recovery based organisation. One woman wanted to get a passport so she could go abroad for the first time in her life.

A number of small grants (e.g. £100-£200 per person) helped to make these things possible. Perhaps surprisingly, individuals did not ask for larger amounts of ‘free’ money and were keen to return any unspent monies. All recipients of support agreed that the money had helped them to achieve their goals but they also stated that the experience of being trusted was of greater value to them. Additionally, they had been inspired to think creatively about their own lives and had established positive relationships with support agencies for the future.

Diversity Matters works with mixed groups of service users and provider organisations. While it can be difficult for social care professionals to set aside a couple of days for any training or facilitated event, the majority of participants report that they enjoy the process and appreciate the opportunity to think in new and creative ways about their roles. Post event, innovative ways of keeping in touch are used including asking for feedback by text which has resulted in a rapid and high feedback rate, as opposed to traditional survey type questionnaires.