HOW IS IT DIFFERENT? – It is fundamentally important that we are clear about how the IF approach to support and planning differs from our more usual approaches. Making this distinction is not totally straightforward despite the fact that IF is a very different way of working with young people. A very large part of the challenge here has to do with moving from a needs or deficit model of disability to a human rights focussed and person centred model of disability. A perceived failure to make this shift is what was behind the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) Committee’s strong criticisms, in August 2017, of the lack of progress being made towards greater inclusion within UK educational settings. This particular observation relates to Article 24 of the Convention that sees access to inclusive education as one of the supporting pillars of a good life for disabled people.

This is not an easy or quick shift to make and that is why such high emphasis is given to the support and supervision of future IF workers. Put simply, the shift involves taking a person-centred approach to the support work involved in being an inclusion facilitator. That sentence is worth parsing so we can be clearer what is meant by ‘person- centred’ working. It’s very important to be super explicit here because ‘person centred’ is widely misunderstood as just being about getting a list of a young person’s views and preferences and maybe something about their aspirations. It has much deeper meanings that just those. It’s about inclusion and social justice and the belief that these are values worth aiming for even if progress is faltering and setbacks frequent. Here are some of person-centred working’s most important clauses, the ways in which its values are enacted:

  • A starting point that says – there are many ways to be ‘normal’. This is about accepting young people exactly as they are at that time; recognising they are doing the best they can in the struggles they face with the resources they have and that they are not helped by being judged. But this is not a passive, or ‘anything goes’ way of supporting someone. It is also about wanting more for them, recognising they will all have gifts that are undeveloped and ungiven.
  • Recognition that relationships are key in supporting growth and change. Many of the young people likely to be supported by IF work in the future will have relationship circles that are very empty, often just close family (a few) and paid people. Person–centred practice means relationship building and community connecting are bedrock activities for the IF worker (and understands that this doesn’t mean being part of a group where everyone shares the same label. This is why, when doing this work, we often end up saying ‘This young person needs more people in their life’. And whilst this sounds deceptively simple – it isn’t – IF work is about looking for potential relationships and supporting their development – it’s about community building and connecting
  • There’s a focus on contribution, on what the young person has to offer others and a recognition that contribution comes in many forms, some of them unexpected
  • That person centred working has within it a set of planning tools – e.g. PATH and MAPS – that reflect these underlying values

At the very least IF work has the potential to throw new light on situations that have become intractable from a medical model perspective; I’m thinking of those young people (often with more than one diagnostic label) who have withdrawn from any involvement with their wider world and peer group, who refuse to take their medications, who will not attend CAMHS appointments or go to support groups for similarly labeled individuals and whose carers are at risk of receiving labels themselves…

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