In one institution they painted a zebra crossing on the floor of the recreation hall – in order to help people safely cross the road. Can you imagine anything more dangerous?

We often do this. We teach a skill but in the wrong environment where it has no meaning and where the real life consequences of using or not using the skill don’t exist.

Many good ideas come adrift because we do not give them the right foundations. The cart goes before the horse.

I remember a conversation I had with a keen advocate of person-centred planning who was part of In Control. She seemed to think that people and families couldn’t plan or make sensible decisions without first receiving support and training in person-centred planning. This seemed upside down to me.

For me I couldn’t see the sense of giving people support to plan unless you’d first given them control over their lives. And once you’ve given someone control they may or may not need help to plan. It is extremely presumptuous to assume that disabled people or families can’t make their own life decisions without the well intentioned involvement of an enlightened professional.

I still feel:

Give people control first. If people still need a bit of extra help to plan then lets figure out the best way to make that happen afterwards.

Not only is it patronising to plan with people and assume they can’t make decisions for themselves – it’s also dangerous. When people are not in control, and are persuaded that they must first play the planning game just to get the chance to be in control, then we swiftly corrupt the planning process:

  1. Planning turns into pleading, negotiating, advocating – but that’s not planning. It lacks integrity and creativity – it is done as part of the ‘game’.
  2. Professionals leap in as consultants, trainers, planners, facilitators and brokers. Instead of supporting capacity we create new professional roles and tasks.
  3. Planning is used to control people further. Support plans are checked, altered, approved or not approved.

Its always useful to ask: would we want this for ourselves? When in life do we plan? When in life do we stick to the plan? When in life do we have to share our plans with others?

The only thing that makes planning safe is staying in control – knowing it’s your own plan and if you change your mind you can throw the plan in the bin.