Choice Support

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Choice Support's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Choice Support is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Group Director of Operations
Mel Shad
The Beeches Forensic Mental
Health Service, Maidstone
Founded in 1988, Choice Support provides services for people
with learning disabilities, mental health issues and autism.
Based in Maidstone, they provide care and support, aiming
to build independence for people who use their range of services
including, but not limited to, registered care, supported living,
community wellbeing and day services and a range of social
enterprises. In December 2018, Choice Support completed a
merger with mcch. Director of Operations Mel Shad discusses
how they have adopted an alternative approach to supporting
people, aiming to empower individuals with a range of complex
needs and to integrate them into their community.
We provide unique, community-based services for people with learning disabilities,
autism and mental health issues. Our services build independence and help integrate
people into their local communities. Because a lot of our services are based in
accessible and mainstream environments, we remove the physical barriers individuals
feel may lie between them and engagement with their local communities. For
example, we encourage individuals to use local community resources like leisure
centres and libraries to build their confidence and develop relationships.
We evolved out of the closure of long-stay hospitals, resettling people in the
community. Over time we grew and expanded across Kent and the neighbouring
counties. We established multidisciplinary approaches, supporting individuals with
a range of complex needs. Today, we offer a diverse range of services, working
across the southeast. Our recent merger with Choice Support has provided us with
national coverage and a joint turnover of just under £65million.
»Group Director of Operations:
Mel Shad
»Founded in 1988
»Based in Maidstone, Kent
»Number of employees: 3,000
»People supported: 2,300
»Services: Support for people
with learning disabilities,
mental health issues and
Choice Support
»Vision – A world where
everyone matters and
everyone cares
»Values – We care, we
respect, we learn, we
We offer wellbeing and job retention
services to help people into work,
before supporting them in their new
role. We aim to destigmatise mental
health issues, learning disabilities and
autism. In the past, individuals with
these challenges have been largely
ignored by society, but we actively
challenge this practice and provide
them with the support they need
to integrate safely and comfortably,
so they can fulfil their aspirations
and live full and rich lives. To this
end, our services are designed to
educate communities as a whole and
encourage inclusion.
We also provide specialist housing
services, with a dedicated housing
team designed to support people in
their tenancies alongside their support
service. We do this because we want
people to have safe and homely
environments to live in while they
build their skills and move towards
independence. We have extensive
development experience, designing
and building dedicated services for
people with a range of needs and
have won awards for our innovative
buildings. To maximise choice and
control, we work directly with families
and individuals and design services to
meet their individual needs, utilising
personal budgets.
Our vision and values
Our ethos is built on a vision of a world
in which all people, regardless of their
disabilities, are treated equally and
fairly. We are a caring organisation
that welcomes all people, no matter
their background or circumstance.
We believe that people who access
our services aspire to achieve the
same things as anyone else in society:
to have somewhere to live, to do
something fulfilling and to have
someone to do things with. With our
support, we hope individuals accessing
our services will achieve this.
Empowerment is a crucial aspect of
our service and we provide our people
with the tools to achieve what is
Building relationships
underpins meaningful
support and individual
We offer
wellbeing and
job retention
services to help
people into
work, before
them in their
new role
Highlighting best practice
important to them. Personalisation
can be an overused term in social
care, but we are committed to placing
the individual at the centre of their
support, so they can make informed
choices about their lives and achieve
tangible outcomes. We include people
who are important to them in this
process and develop a circle of support
within which they feel safe and can
succeed. We believe in positive risk-
taking and support people to make
informed decisions about what they
want to do and how they want to do
it. We believe in people until they can
believe in themselves.
We help people to take incremental
steps towards their identified
objectives, encouraging them to
achieve what they may have previously
viewed as impossible. Pushing their
limits and boundaries, but at their own
pace, enables individuals to achieve a
life they may have thought was out of
their reach. We build risk management
structures and safety nets around
people to help them do this.
Tackling stigmas
We face a number of challenges
as a care provider, but we are
always willing and able to respond
accordingly. Firstly, we work
constantly to improve understanding
and behaviour towards people who
use our services and strive to integrate
people into their communities to help
with this. The stigmas surrounding
mental health issues and learning
disabilities are hurtful and damaging
and we aim to reduce their prevalence
in society.
Secondly, we are contracted to
provide services by statutory bodies
such as local authorities, CCGs and
health trusts. The last few years have
been very difficult for them and,
by extension, for us. We have seen
funding levels cut drastically year
on year, with an expectation for us
to continue to deliver services, but
without the commensurate funds to
do so. We are experiencing significant
financial loss as a result of these
cuts and are having to constantly try
and make efficiencies to respond;
however,like many other providers,
weare reaching a stage where there
are no more efficiencies to be made
and service provision will inevitably
reduce or end as a result. It is our view
that we are going to reach breaking
point as a sector in the very near
future, and we are concerned about
what this will mean for people needing
services going forward.
Finally, the public’s understanding
of social care and its importance
is a key challenge. It’s hard to get
behind us if people don’t know who
we are and what we do. We work
with people who are often invisible
and marginalised and these groups
aren’t always recognised or popular
in society, so we have an uphill
struggle to generate public empathy
We help
people to take
steps towards
their identified
them to
achieve what
they may have
viewed as
Learning basic life skills,
helps people to manage
their own homes

This article was sponsored by Choice Support. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy