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Families and providers: How we can listen and learn from one another

Family Consultant, Liz Wilson, blogs.

As a Family Consultant with Dimensions I know how hard it can be for real listening to take place. That’s why my role was created!

Sometimes I feel like an interpreter who supports families and colleagues to understand one another – the insight, boundless love, optimism and tenacity of families who simply want their loved one to be happy, healthy and loved.

The daily reality of balancing aspiration for the people we support with limited resources. Unpicking why it can be absolutely right for a mother to do something her way yet totally unacceptable for a colleague.

I get it. It’s hard. Messy. Painful.

Words are important but they are not the whole story. Whether they are sweary, harsh, old fashioned or confusing, people get stuck listening to them. They mask a message and when that message gets lost the consequences can be immense.

By 2015 a number of high profile stories of families not being listened to created a surge of action. A small pot of funding enabled me to bring together a group of families and providers to develop a training resource to build understanding and listening.

The families invited were active members of the Yorkshire Valuing Families Regional Forum. One of them, Rosie, had been sharing her concerns with the Forum for over a year. She felt her son’s support provider were not listening to and valuing her experience despite a gentle and creative approach.

On the morning of the first session I got a text from Rosie to say that Danny had died and she couldn’t attend.

Amazingly, even after this Rosie stuck with us so that other families might have a better experience. The result was a genuinely co-produced training package with four basic modules that are rated as effective by all who use them.

This is an issue that affects all families and all providers. Nobody gets it right all the time.

Making an effort is a choice and I am happy to share the training pack with any family led group or provider who wishes to use it.

Partnership is possible and works for everyone.

For your copy of the materials please email me at