CMAS at work

How young people can lead the conversation about their care

27th June 2019

This month we saw parents, young people and professionals come together for our Transition Event Midlands.

We covered a wide range of topics, but a recurring theme was the importance of keeping young disabled people at the centre of conversations around their care.

With a need for technology to become more innovative and communication more convenient, the possibilities of what care management could look like in the future are endless.

Here, James Evans, Director of Education at Community Mentoring and Support (CMAS), discusses the benefits of a brand-new case management system designed to empower children to build their own network of people they want to be involved in their care.

Taking control

For a long time, we’ve felt that the network of support we’re part of is too hampered by communication failures. The care ecosystem we build around children and young people can fall apart so easily due to something as commonplace as a missed call, or an unheard voicemail. One data entry mistake and it’s possible that a really important part of a vulnerable child’s care pathway could get overlooked. But often, it seems to us, that it’s simply because all the different parts of the network aren’t talking to each other at all.
To help solve this, we’ve designed and built a platform for the children and families that CMAS works with in the South West of England.

CMAS is a social enterprise, so we felt that meant we could make change quickly and take control of the situation, offering the children and families we help to look after an extra level of support. We decided to work with some technology companies to build an app-based portal that would bring everybody together online, in a close-knit circle, around each child we work with.

The system we’re building will manage communications across a wide range of agencies from one platform. It’s for the children and young people we work with, first and foremost, as they, with the correct permissions and empowerments, are at the centre of this new way of keeping in touch with everyone.

A secure chatroom

It will work a little bit like a chatroom, accessed via an app on your phone or tablet. Each conversation will be held in a secure area. The participants can see who is present, and invite each other into the conversation, but no contact details are visible. If a child feels worried or angry, they can get immediate support and reassurance. If a young person absconds from their residence, the whole support network can be told at the same time, meaning that everybody has all the information they need to help, and, crucially, the child can see that people are concerned and trying to help.

Multiple benefits

We think the app will work just as well for ongoing conversations, such as progress on funding or treatment of a long-term condition, as it will for urgent help scenarios, such as emotional trauma or a change in family circumstance.

As this way of communicating will be focused around each individual child that we work with, we are creating a platform that empowers parents to work with their children to join up communication inside and outside the household. We’ll be working with our older children, who we choose to empower from around 11 onwards, to build their own network of people that they want to be involved in their care and support. Of course, it’s the parent or guardian’s legal decision and in most cases the parent will play a crucial role in supporting their child, but we also want to ensure the voice of the child and their wishes are heard. So, it could be that in some cases mum or dad are less involved and grandparents, siblings, or anyone with an intergenerational connection have access to the app. For CMAS, it’s all about creating the right support for each child, and every child we look after has completely different needs when it comes to feeling cared for.

We’re going to offer the platform to our care partners in the South West of England, including local authorities, other commissioned children’s and young people’s services, Youth Offending Teams, schools and social work teams to start with. We hope, in time, other agencies such as GP surgeries and community police support officers would be involved too.

In partnership with face-to-face support

The app will exist alongside the face to face support that all the parties involved provide – nothing will ever replace the effectiveness of being with someone in person to shape your relationship with them. However, it’s as simple as seeing your best friend for coffee and then joking with them on WhatsApp on the bus home 10 minutes later – communication needs to be constant to keep that strong bond, and this app makes that happen.

Because we are a commissioned, and therefore free to access service for the children and families we support in the South West, access to the application itself is free, and always will be. We don’t see this as an extra, we see it as an extension to the service that we want all our children and families to get. We can’t wait to get the first users live in early summer.

What do you think of CMAS’ new platform? Let us know @weareMFON

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