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The Importance of Active Support

8th January 2024

The Importance of Active Support

In the latest blog from Peter Kinsey, our Chair and Chief Executive, learn more about the 4 key components of active support and why it is important.

I think I’ve mentioned “active support” before in one of my blogs, but I would like to focus all of this blog on the subject. I am really passionate about “active support” because I think it’s the cornerstone of best practice in our sector.

When I visit services, I want to see the people we support being busy and active, participating in meaningful activities. I don’t like seeing people participating in space filler activities that are just passing time, like repeatedly doing the same jigsaw puzzle over and over again. Everyday activities provide real opportunities for people we support to be engaged meaningfully and to increase their independence.

Many years ago, I was trained by the Tizard Centre at the University of Kent to be an active support trainer. It was very good training which I can still remember clearly today. There are 4 key components of active support:

  • Every moment has potential: everyday there are opportunities to involve people in meaningful activities like shopping, cooking, hoovering, loading and unloading the washing machine and gardening.
  • Little and often: some of the people we support have limited attention spans. They can still be involved in meaningful activity by dipping and out. An example is supporting someone to do the hoovering where a staff member can continue with the activity when a service user loses interest but can then encourage them to re-engage after a short break.
  • Graded assistance: staff should provide just enough support to enable the service user to participate in an activity. For some people that will be verbal prompting and for others it will be hand over hand support.
  • Maximising choice and control.

I would like to mention a couple of great examples of active support that I saw when visiting services before Christmas:

  • I was delighted when staff at The Grange in Gloucester shared some photos with me showing people they support participating in a wide range of household activities. Photos are a great way of providing evidence of good practice.
  • When I went to Riverdale in Cardiff, I was really pleased to see a person we support making a healthy pasta dish with broccoli for his dinner.

I am really pleased that managers in England and Wales are sharing great examples of active support on Viva Engage. Please keep it up!

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