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Dimensions Friends and Family Forum is changing

Dimensions Family and Friends Forum is reviewing its role – aiming to increase the influence of families and improve the working partnership between people we support, families and Dimensions staff and management.

With a seat on the main Dimensions Board for the Family and Friends Forum chair, the group has already had a real impact through channeling family views direct to the top of the organisation – but more can be done.

Whilst the local and national forums offer opportunities for family and friends to express their voices, many do not do so. We hope to create a broader membership base through offering more ways for families and friends to connect.

We asked Susan Kirkman, the independent chair of the Dimensions Family and Friends Forum, some searching questions…

What achievement of the Family and Friends Forum are you most proud of?

I am really proud of the difference we make to the lives of the people we support. This has been demonstrated through the Dimensions Family Charter but the most important achievement to me is that we influenced the way Quality Reviews are carried out, and their content.

Families are now asked about the quality of the support and the impact that support has on the lives of those being supported – it’s no longer just about compliance!

Why is the Family and Friends Forum important?

Members are often experts by experience, who want to work with staff to create the best outcomes for their friends or family members.

The forum does not review individual support, but by listening to others’ experiences we can generalise about what a good service should like in order to help less good services improve. Senior staff attend meetings to tell us about new initiatives, which we can then influence from a family/friend perspective.

Overall, we ensure Dimensions understands and keeps family perspectives at the heart of its decision making.

What constitutes best practice in this area?

Best practice occurs when forum members work together with families and professionals to learn and deliver what works best.

Best practice is crucial to avoid isolation. The Family and Friends Forum must work closely with other governance bodies, in particular the Dimensions Council (an elected group of people Dimensions’ support) and the Dimensions independent safeguarding committee. Families are a valuable resource and can offer help across the board.

I believe that Dimensions leads the field in encouraging family/friend involvement. There is evidence that we are listened to and that things are reviewed as a result of our input.

What is your personal ambition for the forum?

To reach more families and friends so we can learn about and share best practice, and also improve when things when they are less than perfect.

I would also like more families to have a greater awareness of issues that will have an impact on the lives their family members, such as changes to the Mental Capacity Act. We could hold regional meetings where these issues could be explored and better understood.

I would also like to see forum members being much more involved in staff induction programmes and running classes in employee career development programmes, such as Dimensions Aspire.

The more that families, friends and support staff can explore how they both view their roles, the better.

How can readers make a difference?

If you are a family member or a friend of someone supported by Dimensions, please come to your local meeting and express your views. Or feel free to contact me directly at susan.kirkman@dimensions-uk.org. Together, we are all stronger.