Guest Blog Series

By Ian Weedall, Community Engagement Advocate

As Advocates we work in a person-centred way, we take the ‘us’ out of the equation and literally ensure that the people we work with have their voices heard.

It is the Advocate’s unique role to not have an opinion, we are there to inform and enable the people we work with to make their own decisions.  The decision can sometimes be unwise or not supported by others, yet it is our role to ensure that regardless of this, their opinions are heard. This is partly the reason I became an Advocate, I really wanted to approach work in a person-centred manner and generally always have done.

When I began my career in social care, some 25 years ago - longer if you count the after school jobs - there was a growing movement in person-centred care approaches. The early days of which were called 'Essential Lifestyle Planning' with a growing movement to Person-Centred Planning and Approaches.

More recently the 'Mum Test' has become more popular, especially in care homes, the rule being ‘would you have your mum stay here?’ for those that own, manage and work in social care. I took this rule one step further, calling it the ‘Do they make your mum a decent cup of tea?’ test.

Now, this isn’t literal, nor is it really making your mum a cup of tea, but as British people we do tend to have some quirks about how to make a decent cup of tea... there have been debates, loud disagreements and family fall outs as a result. No wars, not yet anyway.

Some people like a builders brew, some like it medium, others like a milky tea whilst some like it without. A cup of tea can be hot or warm, and even iced tea is enjoyed by some. There is disagreement about whether to put the milk in first or last, whether loose tea or bags are better, perhaps you like an Earl Grey or a Lapsang Souchong or just a regular blended tea from a certain brand that you like best. Then there is sugar, lemon or honey. A mug or a china cup?

The multitude of ways that a person likes a cup of tea are huge, so this is a great marker to identify that you are working in a person-centred way. It’s purely metaphorical of course but as an idea shows the most basic way that we work with a person in a way that truly keeps them in the centre of everything we do.

The Mum Test defines whether the place you own, manage or work in is fit for purpose. The cup of tea test takes this one step further.  No one would expect social care services to have every type of tea or brand available to visitors or clients but is it that unreasonable for them to be asked how they like it?

Is it unreasonable for a person living away from home to have something done for them in a way that they actually like? The basic question of do you want a cup of tea is so important, what makes it person-centred is finding out how that person likes their tea. A cup, a mug, strong, weak, milky, black, sugar or without.  Applying this basic test to a care and support environment ensures that you meet their needs in a person-centred way.

By the way, I like coffee but let’s not get into that just now.