I don’t know what you were doing in the 70s – watching the Bay City Rollers, getting your head around decimal coins and the loss of the sixpence or watching The Good Life on the tv. It is amazing to think it was an era without mobile phones, or computers or reality tv. It was also the time when a growing number of people from different parts of the globe began to challenge the model of support for people with learning disabilities which kept them in longstay hospitals or big residential homes. There were increasing numbers of people saying that people with disabilities have no different potential than those without disabilities, but that the lack of aspirations or belief from those who managed the system meant that people had very little opportunity to live their lives to the full, to achieve their unique potential.
In the late 80s Peter Kinsella, a Liverpool lad, travelled to the US to see what was emerging there and was increasingly called ‘Supported Living’. What this meant was that support was provided starting with the individual, finding out what their aspirations for life were (often written up in a person centred plan) and then building support around them to help them achieve their aspirations – so it started with the person and not a building. Peter came back from the US and started work as commissioner for Liverpool Health Authority, using Supported Living as the way to do things in Merseyside.
One of the principles underpinning this was that organisations providing support needed to be nimble and responsive, not requiring meetings and committees to make decisions, but relying on good communication between a few key people. And so Liverpool and Sefton jointly commissioned 4 brand new organisations to provide supported living. That is how Options began, as one of the four, in 1993. And the rest, as they say, is history.
But the principles on which we were created have endured and continue to hold true:
- Good Beliefs and Values underpinning all that we do
- Support starts by listening to the person supported and their families and designing support around them
- It is dependent on great staff with strong beliefs and values and a making it happen attitude
- Stay as small as possible with as few tiers of management as possible – better communication, and quicker decision-making
- A strong emphasis on relationships – in all aspects of what we do, and on a few systems to hold it all together (less paperwork for the sake of it and less bureaucracy)
- A belief that it can work for anyone – not just those with lesser needs
- A great culture that holds the organisation together
- A bias towards working things out together – not in isolation or through conflict
These are the principles on which Options operates today. They still guide all that we do.
Along the way various people have been instrumental in helping us work things out:
We are really grateful to them for all that we have learnt from them and hope that the legacy which is the work we do does honour to their teaching.