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My first impressions of the National Family and Friends Forum

In case you don’t already know, the National Family Forum was established to give families a voice regarding how Dimensions support their family members.

National Family Forum member, Martin Boniface, blogs.
National Family and Friends Forum member, Martin Boniface, blogs.

It was set up with the aim of helping Dimensions to understand our views and create a forum through which Dimensions and the families and friends of the people we support could keep in step with each other.

I joined the Forum for two reasons. First, I attended a regional forum in the West Midlands earlier this year to meet with senior management from Dimensions to discuss the support offered by them. I was encouraged that Dimensions takes time to listen to us. Whilst it was a useful meeting, I was surprised that only three families were represented. I was struck by how difficult it is for Dimensions to understand the needs of families if we don’t engage with them.

The second reason was that I received an email asking for volunteers to join the National Family Forum. Never being someone who is backward in coming forward, I decided to apply to join; I attended my first meeting in early November.

I was not sure what to expect, as I understood the aim of this meeting was to develop our next PATH. PATH stands for Planning Alternative Tomorrow with Hope.

Here were 10 of us, made up of family members and representatives of Dimensions, plus two ladies from Imagine Act and Succeed who facilitated the session. Taking on various roles as fairy godmothers, time travelers and so on, we were asked to “dream big” about where we would like to see the National Family Forum and Dimensions in five years’ time. Having created the vision, we worked back and looked at what would need to happen at certain times to make the vision a reality.

The result was a huge, colourful image that captured our views expressed in words and pictures. This will now be refined and brought to life in the months to come.

So, what were my first impressions? The wide range of views and experiences of the group struck me, as did how much everyone cared. I was also impressed by how open Dimensions were to hearing our views and understanding what we wanted from them and the Forum.

Ultimately, our aim is for the Forum to become redundant over time. We also decided to change the name of the Forum to the National Family and Friends Forum to recognise that it is not just families who are involved with those supported by Dimensions.

The Forum meets four times a year and I am looking forward to the next meeting.

If you would like to know more about the Forum or would like to get involved at a Regional or National level, then please get in touch with Susan Kirkman, Chair on susan.kirkman@dimensions-uk.org or Jackie Fletcher, Executive Director on Jackie.fletcher@dimensions-uk.org

Our views matter and we can help shape the service Dimensions offers to our friends and family members, but only if we get involved.

Download Facts for families – Family Forum meetings

Dimensions Families blog: 16/1/15