“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see” – Mark Twain

 “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see” – Mark Twain

This is the quote that sits above me on the noticeboard. It is one the welfare rights team here at Deafblind Scotland embody.

Working in any Welfare Rights team can see you assisting those with complex needs, from different backgrounds to ensure they are given fair representation that is all the more complex when those who need support have a hearing and sight impairment.

Many people living with sight or hearing loss do not have the means in which to research what benefits would they could be eligible for. Even if they did have this information, making a phone call or filling in a form would be very challenging or impossible. We feel that with the correct support those with dual sensory loss can flourish and feel confident to seek advice on welfare rights and even challenge decisions.

We assist those in their preferred communication whether that is speech/hearing, British sign language, Deafblind manual, Deafblind hands-on signing and so on. Those who seek help may be deafblind or may have been assessed for a visual impairment. We understand people with a visual impairment can also struggle to access benefits. We can offer communication support such as large print, braille or moon (a system of raised shapes, which can help blind people, of any age, to read by touch). It is imperative that the service user understands what we are applying for on their behalf and that they are happy for us to do so.

We make home visits which service users prefer as they do not have to organise a guide or transport and endure the stress and anxiety that comes with an unknown journey. Our job is to assist them in their welfare rights and treat them as an individual and put the control in their hands where at some points in their life they feel this has been taken away from them. This could be something as simple as reading and interpreting letters for them or attending appeal hearings with them.

We work in partnership with other mainstream organisations and also take welfare rights referrals from them

As a charity Deafblind Scotland have around 750 members with about 95 accessing the guide service. They are guided and given communication support to get to medical appointments, go shopping, go to the bank, socialise at clubs or whatever else the service user would like. The service user builds up a partnership with the guides and from these visits guides have referred members to Welfare Rights. Service users know that the Welfare Rights team have the same understanding of their various health conditions or communication needs. This puts them at ease and feel more comfortable accessing the service.  Different services may not be able to easily explain what they need, understand the communication they need and most importantly deserve to have.

We have received positive feedback from service users such as; “Just to say thanks so much for all your recent help, advice & support with the PIP process. I really have appreciated this so much as I know I really couldn’t have managed this without your involvement. It’s a really stressful process to go through and you really helped in easing a lot of the stress and pressure for me”. “It’s really wonderful that Deafblind have received the financial funding to start and hopefully continue this vital service and support for the most ‘vulnerable’ members in the community.” Messages like this spur us on and let us know that the assistance we are giving is person-centred.

Deafblind Scotland’s Welfare Rights team has been supporting those with dual sensory loss and visually impaired adults since August 2014 and has raised more than £800,000 for those we have assisted.

Asset-based approaches – the first step to transformation

It might now be considered trite to say it, but people are the lifeblood of any service.  No matter the sector or subject, the system or the team – the driving force is the people who work in it and the people who use it.

This is why the publication of Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH)’s new document ‘Assets based approaches in service settings’ is so welcome.  Taking an asset-based approach to services means focussing on the potential of people who use them – not what is “wrong” with them or what needs to be “fixed”.   By recognising and making the most of people’s strengths we can promote the factors that support good health and wellbeing.  This requires an understanding that addressing complex issues needs much more involvement of the people who are at the centre of those issues – rather than being viewed as things that can be “sorted out” by professionals alone.

A couple of weeks ago I attended the launch of the new report and one thing struck me – the significant overlap between the vision in GCPH’s document and that championed in the Health and Social Care Academy’s Five Provocations for the Future of Health and Social Care.  Leadership, humanity and cultural change are terms used throughout, which suggests that asset-based approaches are one key mechanism through which transformation can be delivered.

GCPH have made it clear that it is possible to design and focus delivery and practice towards assets, rather than deficits – even despite the many constraints placed on public services. Their new publication identifies examples such as Primary Care Learning Disability Local Area Co-ordinators, the Bridging employability service and Healthy Mind, a project designed to support access to online information and resources, as practical examples of asset-based approaches to the delivery of health and social care.

All progressive steps – but remain ‘far from the way we do things’.  The rhetoric around asset-based approaches has yet to reach reality in a manner which could be described as significant.  The Scottish Government has long been committed to the delivery of these approaches and, as GCPH note, this is informing and influencing the planning and delivery of some services.  But as always we need to move comprehensively and quickly beyond rhetoric and to the practical application and incentivising of approaches which encourage people to flourish.

After all, the need to work differently is ever more pressing.


Andrew Strong
Assistant Director (Policy and Communications)
Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE)


Challenging the Five Provocations: Nurturing Transformation

In December 2015 the Academy published the Five Provocations for the Future of Health and Social Care, influenced by a think tank of leaders from health and social care and beyond. Since then we have tested them with a range of different audiences and deepened our understanding of what a transformed landscape would look.

This series of blogs, titled Challenging the Five Provocations, looks at this experience to dig a little deeper into the future and set out the opportunities for transformation as we see them.

Nurturing Transformation

Perhaps there is something in the word transformation itself that suggests a quick fix. But what it means is a thorough, radical and noticeable difference in health and social care and beyond. Suddenly the word transformation been adopted by every change project and even by systems change which is focused on one goal – cutting costs.

So perhaps there’s a need to qualify it right at the start. What we identify as transformation has to mean a positive, identifiable and radical shift in care where that change is needed. And transformation will embody the other provocations as well; it will cede power, it will reflect courageous leadership, it will be a change in culture and it will fundamentally emphasise and value humanity at all levels.

It is not a quick fix and so it needs to be supported and nurtured by a longer term vision and the courage and passion to work towards it; by supporting and navigating the involvement of people, the design of supportive systems and investment in them as well as the inevitable bumps in the road and the changes in political landscapes.

To nurture means to care for and encourage, this needs to be a fundamental part of the process of transformation and can’t only apply to one sector or profession but needs to be as evident in the informal communities of care as well as the formal.

Future Leaders’ Vision of Health and Social Care in Scotland

‘We need your views to shape the vision of health and social care in Scotland.’


Future Leaders’ Vision of Health and Social Care In Scotland – West of Scotland Regional Hub

The Health and Social Care Academy and educational providers are hosting an event on Wednesday 7th December at the Paisley campus of the University of the West of Scotland, 11am – 3pm with lunch provided.

We are looking for a cross sector of future leaders who are studying health and social care and those with experience of health and social care services to take part in discussions about how services should look and ways of making this happen. This is an opportunity to be involved in exciting transformational change that will make lasting changes to people’s lives. This event will inform a national Think Tank in early 2017, which will bring together future and current leaders.

At the event we will be exploring these four questions and giving you the opportunity to share your views:

  • What is your vision of the future?
  • What will help you realise your future?
  • What do you see as the current obstacles and opportunities?
  • What are your recommendations for how the current system needs to change?

In order to ensure an equal spread of students in health and social care and those with lived experience, we are asking potential participants when registering their interest to self-select the option that describes them best and we will notify you when you have been selected.

You can register your interest for our West Regional Hub on the 7th December via our Eventbrite page.

Further information regarding the East and North Regional Hubs will be released shortly.

The Courage to Cede Power

Has Scotland missed an enormous opportunity to have the expertise of some of the 2 million voices of users feed into the DNA of the new Health and Social Care Integrated Joint Boards?

In common, it appears, with most of Scotland’s national and local politicians, I had accepted that the obligation to have one third sector member, one carer member and one service user member on each of the new boards ensures the voice of the ‘customer’ is built into the new structure. Read More “The Courage to Cede Power”

Publication: Ceding Power Case Study

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Ceding Power: Participatory Budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil

Our final case study on the five provocations comes from Porto Alegre, Brazil, where the concept of participatory budgeting was born in 1989. Participatory budgeting involves ceding power to local people and enabling them to decide how local budgets should be spent. It can be an entire community setting their spending priorities or a specific group deciding what projects, services and support should be funded in line with their needs. The model is now spreading around the world and there is an increasing amount of participatory budgeting activity taking place in Scotland.

Read More “Publication: Ceding Power Case Study”

Publication: Emphasising Humanity Case Study

Emphasising humanity

Emphasising Humanity: Embracing Alaska Native Culture in the Nuka System of Care

The Nuka System of Care embodies many of our Five Provocations for the Future of Health and Social Care, including Ceding Power and Nurturing Transformation, but what stands out most about the model is its strength in Emphasising Humanity. ‘Nuka’ is an Alaska Native word which means ‘strong, giant structures and living things.’ The strength of the Nuka system’s structure is based upon the relationships between those accessing care and support and those providing it. The ‘living thing’ element comes from involving people in every part of the decision-making process and aiming to support their physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing as whole people.

Read More “Publication: Emphasising Humanity Case Study”

Publication: Target Culture Case Study

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Target Culture: ‘Statist Individualism’ in the Nordic Countries

Today’s case study takes a more global view of our Five Provocations. The Target Culture provocation has a double meaning: firstly it calls for a rethink of the way targets are used in our health and social care services and secondly it calls for a cultural shift towards everyone taking responsibility for their health and wellbeing. This case study focusses on the second aspect, looking at what it is about Nordic culture that results in their populations having such high levels of health and wellbeing.

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Publication: Nurturing Transformation Case Study

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Nurturing Transformation: A Community-Focussed Social Impact Bond in Perth and Kinross

The next in our series of case studies on our Five Provocations is Nurturing Transformation. It highlights Perth and District YMCA’s Living the Balance project, which was funded and delivered as a social impact bond. This is a model which is becoming more widespread in the funding of preventative projects, but Living the Balance is Scotland’s only social impact bond as yet. Jill McGrath, CEO of Perth and District YMCA, spoke at our recent event on the Power of Prevention, and explained how their project pushed the boundaries of the innovative model by involving small, local funding partners, many of whom invested more than simply capital in the project.

Read More “Publication: Nurturing Transformation Case Study”

Publication: Courageous Leadership Case Study

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Creating the conditions for change through courageous leadership: the Self Management Strategy for Scotland

Of all of our Five Provocations for the Future of Health and Social Care, Courageous Leadership is the key catalyst for change. Without Courageous Leadership throughout our government, public sector institutions, third sector organisations and communities, change in line with the other four provocations will not be sustainable, or even possible.

Read More “Publication: Courageous Leadership Case Study”