The National Disability Authority (NDA) was established in June 2000 as an independent statutory body. One of the functions of the NDA, as outlined in the NDA Act (1999), is ‘to support the achievement of good standards and quality in the provision of programmes and services provided or to be provided to people with disabilities’ (see, for example, Part II, sections 8-(2)-(c, d and f) and 10 (1)).
In the course of nationwide consultation on its work programmes, 2002, person centred planning in the provision of services for people with disabilities in Ireland was identified as one of the areas requiring the NDA’s attention.
Supporting good practice in person centred planning will help the government to deliver on its commitment to provide quality services for people with disabilities (see Quality and Fairness – A Health System for You, Department of Health and Children, 2001 and the National Disability Strategy, 2004). The new draft National Standards for Disability Services (which the NDA submitted to the Department of Health and Children, October 2004) make explicit reference to person centred planning as a key reference point for the development and delivery of services for people with disabilities.
In order to be effective, it is important that person centred planning be adopted thoughtfully, carefully and in a way that is tailored to the individual at the centre of the planning effort.
The specific objectives of the document are to:
Person centred planning is a way of helping people or the parents/families of very young people or people with high dependencies, think about what is important to them, how they want to live and what support they want.
A person centred plan can be helpful in guiding the design and delivery of highly individualised, dynamic support arrangements which are unique to each individual’s needs and preferences.
This document, on person centred planning in the provision of services to people with disabilities, should prove useful to service providers in setting out the values and principles which underlie person centred planning and the essential elements of its overall approach, required context and associated methodologies.
It is mainly intended to provide information and support to services supporting the development and/or realisation of person centred plans, though it is also intended to provide information for people with disabilities and their parents, families, friends, spouses and advocates which will help them understand what is meant by person centred planning.
Person centredness is defined in the draft National Standards for Disability Services as ‘seeking to put the person first’ (NDA and Department of Health and Children, 2004). Person centredness is generally seen as essential to the provision of good quality services for people with disabilities in Ireland (see, for example: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), draft National Standards for Disability Services, April 2003).
The draft National Standards for Disability Services define a person centred service as one which is “provided, organised and designed around what is important to the service user from his or her perspective.” (the draft National Standards for Disability Services, September, 2004). They require that all planning for the provision of services to people with disabilities should be person centred.
At the heart of a person centred approach to planning lies an appreciation of the person as a unique individual, requiring that all planning is based on supporting each individual lead his or her life as and how he or she wishes. In practical terms, this means that all planning around the design, development and delivery of all services for people with disabilities should be both based on and actively involve the individuals availing of these services and each of those individuals’ unique characteristics, capabilities, needs and wishes (that is: conducted in a person centred way).
Person centred plans should be viewed by service providers as a useful means of driving person centredness and person centred service provision, that is: as a means for bringing this about. Nevertheless, it is important that service providers recognise and bear in mind the fact that a person centred plan is not a plan for person centred service provision (a ‘service plan’ as such) but is, rather, a personal, overall life plan for an individual.
Ideally, the process of person centred planning should begin before an individual makes contact with any particular support service. Services constitute just one aspect of a person’s life. The matter of services should, accordingly, be addressed only when a person has developed a clear overall perspective on the life they want in general.
The scope of person centred planning will, normally, extend far beyond services.
Most will, however, set out a number of requirements for services or feature some more general wishes which may have implications for them.