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Cornerstone Cafe Parent Carer Group

Kathleen Ainsley tells the story of how the group began and what it has achieved:

We were fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time when we were introduced to Personalisation. Our son was 17 and I was hungry for more information once I’d been introduced to a basic version of Person Centred Planning. Fortunately I was able to attend all events which I was invited to and was keen to understand what was being discussed as it appeared to me that my hopes and dreams for our son were not out of reach.

Soon we were able to take part in the Dynamite project which our local authority had commissioned and it fitted us like a glove. We learned an awful lot from this project and it gave us good grounding for the future. A few months later we went on to take part in The Big Plan and this was the real opportunity for me to understand the future path. Our son was very good at highlighting what HE wanted his future to look like and to us it looked like as “normal” a life as he could cope with! I made sure that, from receiving the Big Plan booklet, I was going to do my best to stick to it and make sure everyone else did too.

As our son came home from a specialist college and I (along with our LA) were working toward his Big Plan, other parents were finding out what we were doing they contacted me for more information on how we had progressed so far. There were about 12 parents (all working parents) hungry for the info so we decided to meet in an evening and we knew one of them owned a café so agreed to meet there to share our journey.

It was a huge success and we decided to meet once a month to help each other through the Transition (14-25) but it was apparent that there were others who did not meet this age group but still needed the information. We shared experiences and expectations of the future for our young people and the parents were very interested to find out how they could follow in our footsteps and achieve great outcomes for their young people. If we did it, they can too!

We met again the following month but this time we invited the senior manager, transition officer and valuing people officer from our local authority to hear what we had to say and to answer our questions. Once again it was a very successful meeting and we were all eager for the next meeting.

  • We have been meeting for two years and two months so far.
  • We are funded by our Parent Carer Forum as we inform Personalisation and Transition.
  • WE set our agenda
  • We are now working alongside our LA to change services for our young people. We are invited to raise issues while taking part in Carer/Provider forums hence informing the providers of how they need to alter services in order for them to be “Fit for purpose and Personalisation”
  • We have taken part in the larger consultation process to inform the cuts being made.
  • We have been invited to be a member of the health and wellbeing sub group.
  • We were asked to work with the Personalisation scrutiny committee and then invited into the council offices for a lunch to say thank you.
  • We have won a “Healthy Communities award” and were given a commended recognition.
  • We have now helped approximately 12 young people to move onward with their lives via a Personal Budget and most of them move into their own homes.
  • We encourage the parent carers who have reached their goals to share their knowledge with new parents and pass on the baton to keep the information current and updated.
  • We are soon to host the Planning Café within our meetings as most of the parents attending our group choose to take control in order to be fully informed of every step taken.
  • We are addressing a need within our own community and we are in the driving seat of our future.
  • We have achieved such a lot over the short time we have been meeting and plan to carry on until we are no longer needed.

Our local authority are now far more informed of our needs and are very keen to continue working with us as we will not achieve the wonderful life outcomes for our young people without joint working. 

ALL TOGETHER we are BETTER!


The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.

Cornerstone Cafe Parent Carer Group © Kathleen Ainsley 2013.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.