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Introduction to Person-centred Planning Tools

Introduction to Person-centred Planning Tools

Preparing for Adulthood has refreshed a suite of person-centred planning materials; before using these materials, please read this introduction as well as the guidance provided with each tool.  


Person-centred planning has been used in the UK since the early 1980s, mainly among families but also by community and academic organisations. For example, from 1983, the University of East London ran family leadership programmes which taught the importance of person-centred planning to enable children to be included in their local communities and to have the same rights as all other children. At the University of Bolton, the further education teacher training programme introduced person-centred planning as a way of giving the graduates the confidence to include adult students with learning disabilities in mainstream classes. They learned about person-centred planning as well as Circles of Friends, the social model of disability, positive approaches to behaviour in the classroom, peer support and learning through relationships.

In the UK, we learned about person-centred planning from people in the United States and Canada who were trail blazing person-centred approaches to support marginalised people who had traditionally been institutionalised. Parents of disabled children also used person-centred planning to enable their children to be included in mainstream education. 

Person-centred planning was first enshrined in public policy in England in 2001 with Valuing People, the National Learning Disability Strategy. The expectation was that person-centred planning would be used to support people being discharged from the long-stay mental handicap hospitals into the community with full and fulfilling lives based on their own aspirations and dreams.

Organisations like Helen Sanderson Associates and Inclusive Solutions developed resources and training to support people themselves, families and people working in the system to learn how to have different conversations enabling people to have more choice and control over their lives.   Helen Sanderson Associates were commissioned by the Department of Education between 2004 and 2008 to provide training for people working in schools, colleges and local authorities.

Person-centred planning is a holistic, joined up, problem solving approach which supports people to have the lives they want. It assumes that everybody has gifts and talents and can make a contribution. It explores what is important to a person from their own perspective, what is important for them to keep healthy and safe and what needs to happen to enable the person to make changes that lead to their best life. This is an alternative to traditional types of planning which are based on the medical model of disability, set up to assess need, allocate services and make decisions for people

Person-centred plans are usually developed using either MAPS, PATH or Essential Lifestyle Planning. Each has characteristics which make them more relevant in particular situations but all are concerned with the same questions:

  • Who is this person?
  • What is great about them?
  • What is important to them?
  • What support do they need to live the life they want?

Essential Lifestyle Planning is probably the most flexible approach and has been used in adult social care now for many years. It has more recently been the approach used to develop Education, Health and Care plans. It is used to facilitate a conversation using the following set of questions:

  • What do people like and admire about you?
  • Who are the important people in your life?
  • What is important to you – now and in the future?
  • What is important for you – now and in the future?
  • What is working for you now?
  • What is not working so well?
  • What actions need to happen to achieve your dreams and aspirations?
  • Who will do what to make sure those things happen?

This conversation ideally takes place in a planning meeting with the person and the people closest to them.

The SEND Code of Practice published in 2015 sets out the requirements of the Children and Families Act 2014 and there is a clear expectation that children, young people and their families will be central to planning and that young people’s voice is absolutely critical. In our experience, it is not possible to create a truly holistic and meaningful plan if it is not developed using a person-centred approach. The Code of Practice promotes person-centred planning throughout but specifically in Chapters 3, 8 and 9 and 11 (3.39), 8 (8.56), 9 (9.21, 9.97, 9.102, 11.1).

 For example, in Chapter 8 Preparing for adulthood from the earliest years, the Code says:

High aspirations are crucial to success – discussions about longer term goals should start early and ideally well before Year 9 (age 13-14) at school. They should focus on the child or young person’s strengths and capabilities and the outcomes they want to achieve.

And in Chapter 9 Education, Health and Care needs assessments and plans:

Involving children, young people and parents in decision-making means:

  • focus on the child or young person as an individual
  • enable children and young people and their parents to express their views, wishes and feelings
  • enable children and young people and their parents to be part of the decision-making process

And that: Children, parents and young people should be supported to engage fully in the review meeting.

There is now significant evidence that Education, Health and Care plans are not being developed using person-centred approaches, that plans often do not reflect young people’s voice and aspirations and do not include holistic outcomes. This evidence comes from the Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission SEND Area Inspections that have taken place since 2016. Alongside these inspections, four reports published since September 2019[1] highlight that planning is not as good as it should be. Our work with local areas confirms that person-centred planning is not as embedded in the system as it was previously.

The PfA Team has refreshed a suite of person-centred planning materials which can be used when planning with children, young people and their families. We have worked in many areas across the country and used these tools to support the development of Education, Health and Care plans and SEND Support Plans. The tools are specifically designed to find out what is important to a young person and the support they need. They can in fact be used in any planning situation and for many years have been used with people of all ages and with a range of labels and needs.

We hope you find the new materials useful and help to support children young people and families to have more choice and control in their lives.

[1] Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in England, National Audit Office, Not going to plan? - Education, Health and Care plans two years on, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, House of Commons Education Committee Special educational needs and disabilities report and House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts Support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Tags: Person-centred Planning

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