Early intervention to limit behaviour that challenges

Graham, B. (2020) Cumbria Early Intervention Pilot, Evaluation report, London.

Over two years I conducted formative, process and outcome evaluations of this innovative multi-agency programme to help its development and share key findings.

The Cumbrian initiative aimed to embed a positive behavioural support (PBS) model in all care, health and educational services working with children and young people with severe learning disabilities and behaviour that challenges. This was timely given numerous and unfortunately regular exposes of dreadful abuse in the care of people with learning disabilities. Although largely approved, the PBS approach is still not widespread, nor understood.

The collaboration and enthusiasm of project partners and professionals (NHS, family carers, universities and learning disability charities) helped overcome implementation challenges, in delivering workshops to learning disability staff, schools and carers, engaging families who might not have otherwise participated and overcoming geographical boundaries to reach every part of this diverse county.

Family and professional participants found the focus on positive behaviour refreshing and enlightening. It gave many families hope for the future. Carers also welcomed the stress placed on their own self-care, which aimed to reduce the amount of crises, which commonly trigger care breakdowns and residential care.

Involving local family carers proved vital: they jointly delivered all workshops, dissemminated findings and worked with VCS and other agencies to identify gaps in and make practical recommendations around how to improve general health and care services, so that people with learning disabilities could benefit from these too. These Cumbrian, regional and national partners resolved to continue working together to further the PBS approach.