Steve Dowson

You can find a three page summary of my professional background,

interests, and publications here.

In brief -

My work with government, service providers, and community organisations draws on four decades of involvement in social care.  My roles in that time have included social worker, social services researcher, chief executive of a national campaigning organisation, and consultant/trainer.   The issues and topics I’ve covered have been very wide - from changing day services through to the of the eugenic implications of new genetic testing methods. However, the theme that’s most interested me has been the way in which culture, competence, and power affect progress towards a social care system that truly works in the interests of disabled people and their carers.

For me, that theme is played out most powerfully in individualised funding systems, which - if well designed - force a shift in power that creates strong pressures  to change the culture of services, and to develop new competencies.  I first learned about individualised funding (IF) in 1989, from the Canadian parents who had defined it, and support brokerage, a decade earlier (in fact, at almost exactly the same time as the parallel development of the independent living movement).  

In the twenty years since then I have been closely involved in the international community of people developing, testing, and debating these ideas.   My work (much of it in partnership with Brian Salisbury, a pioneer and international advocate of brokerage) has included research into IF systems, consultancy, public speaking and training in Australia, Canada, the United States, and Europe.  I worked with Brian to plan the International Conference on Self-determination and individualised funding in Seattle, in 2000 - an event with 1200 participants and more than 70 contributors.  Other work included support over three years (2001-2004) to the Self-Determination project in San Diego, which included the delivery of training for independent support brokers.

By around 2000 there had, internationally, been some 50 projects that showed the the basic characteristics of the IF model  - in combination, an immensely rich and valuable source of learning.  Developments in the UK to move beyond Direct Payments were very slow, aside from a few small initiatives, including the NDT’s Life Planning projects in Brent and North Somerset.  This prompted, in 2002, the publication of the campaigning document Not Just About the Money (see the list of papers on this site).

Since then, of course, there has been very rapid growth in the development of Personal Budgets, and their endorsement as a central mechanism in the Personalisation of social care in England.   As one of the very few people in the country with any significant knowledge of international developments, my perspective is inevitably different from people who have only known the version of IF that has become dominant in England.  I am particularly concerned that a system which does not recognise the need for role clarity - especially in the provision of technical support to people planning how to use their Personal Budget - is not likely to achieve the shift in power that should be at the heart of individualised funding.

Though various research and writing projects I have attempted to promote and clarify the role of the independent support broker in personalised social care.  I have also, under the auspices of the NDTi, led the delivery the NDTi five-day training for independent brokers in many areas over the last eight years.  This training, with its focus on creating local resources of people ready to work as independent brokers, is unique in the UK.

Although I am particularly associated with the topic of support brokers, they are ultimately only of interest to me as one of the critical elements in an effective individualised funding system.  My greater concern and broader expertise is in the development of local and national individualised funding system, from founding design principles through to the details of operational forms and procedures and the training of staff.

I’m self-employed, and travel widely as the work requires.   For further information and discussion about how I may be able to help you or your organisation, please contact me at enquiries@thelittlebrook.co.uk

Individualised funding and brokerage papersIFpapers.html
Moving to the DanceMTTD.html

The Little Brook