Once upon a time I found myself at University training to be a teacher, specifically, a teacher of kids with severe learning disabilities. I’m not quite sure how that happened as the one thing I was sure I didn’t want to do was teach (I’m a school teacher’s daughter), but strange things happen when you’re 18 and making decisions about what to do with your life.
It was the 1980’s and we were big into behavioural approaches that focused on what we felt the young person needed to change and how we could help them do it.
I was lucky enough to have a tutor who took a different approach and who introduced me to the concept of student centred learning and to inclusive education. Fast forward through a couple of years of teaching in a special school where I was the squarest peg in the roundest of holes.
Things unravelled quite spectacularly over a 3 month period and I ended up at 23 years old on a locked psychiatric ward, collecting diagnoses. I spent several years in and out of hospital, living on benefits and gradually losing all sense of self- worth.
That same tutor gave me the push I needed to find the confidence to get back out into the world and I began volunteering for an advocacy organisation. It was there I started to understand how people with any label or diagnosis have to fight to have a voice and to be seen as more than their impairment.
A part time paid role came up, which I applied for and got and 3 years later I was the Chief Executive. When the Valuing People White Paper came out in 2001, I was lucky enough to get a job as part of the original Valuing People Support Team, working with some amazing people to try and change the lives of people with learning disabilities.
The original ideas and policy for what we now call Personalisation and personal budgets started in our team and I’m very proud to have been part of that thinking.
All this time I was experiencing strange parallel universes myself; when I was ‘well’, I was valued and respected as a part of a national team working with cutting edge policy that was radically changing the world of social care.
When I was ‘ill’, my only option for support was from a system that seemed to fail to understand what was important to me as a human being – my job, my home, my role, purpose and contribution and my relationships with the people who love me.
Along the way I acquired two kids, as you do.
Mine came to me not from me and I’m foster mum to The Boy, who came to me at 10 and is now nearly 22, and The Girl, who came to me at 8 and is now 17.
Both happen to have the label of complex autism and severe learning disabilities.
Given that they were potential both headed out of area to specialist autism services, I feel incredibly proud of what they have achieved.
I’ve been passionate about the principles of inclusion since I was a student, but I’m now lucky enough to be able to share how I’ve made things work for me and for my kids.
I sum this up in the idea of how to get people gloriously ordinary lives and that is what drives every aspect of my work.
Most of the time, when people need extra support to live their lives, the solutions that services come up with are a million miles away from what you or I consider even an ordinary life, never mind a fantastic one.
To do this effectively and honestly, requires several things to change in how we design and offer services and support – across health, social care and education:
- a different attitude to people;
- an inherent belief in the capacities of people, whatever their label, to have control over their lives
- a different conversation with the person and their family about what is possible for their lives
- a focus on building community and connection first, before considering what paid support is needed a flexible and creative approach to how public money should and could be used to achieve this
"Tricia came into our lives when we attended a couple of workshops with Devon council. She turned our family’s life around and made us think outside the box.
Instead of accepting what was on offer by external services, she asked us what we wanted for our child and for our family. Then she helped us work out what we had to do to get it.
When you think this way you can really make things happen. We now have a child that is happier and enjoying life more than we ever thought possible and we are doing more things as a family than before. Instead of our child having to go to respite every week for 2 nights, he is at home and he is doing things he loves.
We are not saying it’s always easy, but now he sleeps all night, his life is better and so is our family’s……and the silly thing about it is that a lot of families could do the same."
"After seeing Tricia facilitate a large national event creatively, managing a range of stakeholders to achieve the events outcomes, I knew that I wanted to work with her.
I asked Tricia to design a series of workshops to deliver a complex agenda to a varied range of stakeholders. Tricia’s adaptability , creativity, competence and knowledge makes working with her a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
I was confident that the events would run smoothly and that participants would get what they needed.
Senior Programme Manager Personalisation Wheelchair Services
Integrated Personal Commissioning and personal health budget Team
"Tricia offers facilitation that is carefully planned to meet the aspirations of the host and that enables everyone contributing do their best work.
She has a style that is sophisticated and stylish with a great attention to detail. I would recommend her for any work where authenticity is needed.
Her work is grounded in strong values and she is an honest critical friend with focus on solutions."
Local Area Co-ordination Network
"Tricia has been a partner and associate of In Control since it began. She has always supported us with advice as a knowledgeable associate and provides fantastic service and work delivery.
Tricia is always quick to respond to what we need.
Tricia's work has ranged from supporting individuals and councils in coordination of planning or working through complex issues to organising and facilitating large events (100 plus people).
Tricia shares strong ethical values around inclusion, human rights & independent living. I strongly recommend her for anyone who needs a good and reliable associate who remains people focused."