Elly at the farm

This is a blog post originally written by Andy Robinson of You First in June 2019, when we were testing out some activities and developing our vision.

This week Elly, one of the people that You First support, fulfilled one of her life goals – to drive a tractor. She did more than drive a tractor actually, she spent time ploughing a field bringing together her love of vehicles and enjoyment of land-based activity (she has a flourishing allotment!) She did all this whilst working as an Expert by Experience for You First, feeding back key information, ideas and suggestions as part of a consultation process for the Broadclyst Community Farm Project.

Before Elly was ever going to step on a tractor she had to grow in self-esteem, confidence, self-belief and being able to value herself and have a genuine belief she could actually do these things. Delivering these softer outcomes was a process, not an event and they had their beginning in one very simple practice – listening. We listened to her. Elly was used to being controlled, “done to” as opposed to “done with” and seen as a “problem” or “difficult”. We stepped back, shifted the balance of power to where it rightly belonged – her, and listened to what she had to tell us. This gave her genuine control and she began to map out a vision of what she wanted from life and what she could contribute as an active and valued citizen.

Equally key to delivering these critical soft outcomes was a high level of staff support that built resilience into individuals and therefore the team.
This support, which will be on-going, is central to Elly being supported in a way that makes sense to her and builds consistency and continuity both in terms of personnel and practice. This invaluable investment in staff ensures that Elly is supported by a dedicated team that she has chosen for herself. It’s possible to have a consistent team that deliver inconsistent support and time spent discussing, reflecting and evaluating is therefore critical. Robust de-briefs, regular one-to-ones, personalised training, team meetings – practices that again all have listening at their core have been and continue to be pivotal in supporting Elly to experience real, meaningful and purposeful outcomes.

Elly had clear Outcome goals, including wanting to work, earn money, go to college and have a home of her own. Indeed, Elly is negotiating with Estate Agents to find her permanent home, via the My Safe Homes -Scheme supported by her team at this very moment.
The quality Process goals that have enabled Elly to build and grow her life focused upon Elly building resilience through gaining belief in herself, working on coping strategies, for example how to manage sensory overload. It’s easy, very easy, to lose sight of the importance and value of what are often called the “softer outcomes” but without valuing and investing in the process and building real quality into this there is a genuine risk that any resultant change will be temporary and fragile at best. At worst vulnerable people will be set up to fail.