The right shoots

Update for families, March 2019

By Luke Joy Smith, Managing Director

Each month, I write to families by post, to update them on various key aspects of Discovery’s work. Letters are posted because experience shows that this remains the best way to give every family the chance to know what’s happening at Discovery.

The same information will also be posted on the Discovery news page from now on, so that everyone has the same chance to be informed:

Recruitment and Retention

Our recruitment team have had good success lately, with over 600 applications being received in the past 3 months; 93 of these applicants who share our values were offered jobs. You may have already read my colleague Chris’ blog about recruitment and thanks again for those who have provided honest feedback.

Furthermore, we have increased further our hourly rate for support workers to assist with both recruitment and retention.

I think it also important to add a comment in this section about our use of ‘agency’ colleagues. We, and every other support provider, use approved and reliable agencies for contingency reasons. Agency use in Discovery is higher than we would all like but I do want to highlight that many of our agency colleagues work consistently, and over the long term, with the same person in just the same way as our permanent colleagues. It can also be a source of recruitment for us. Over the last few months we have welcomed a number of experienced and skilled colleagues who have worked for us under an agency arrangement, only to see that we’re an employer they would like to work for on a permanent basis. This is great but doesn’t dilute our drive to reduce agency use.


2019 is a big year for Discovery, as we work towards adopting our parent Dimensions’ approach to supporting people, known as ‘Activate.’

Activate is based on ground-breaking research conducted alongside the University of Kent’s Tizard Centre and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation. The research achieved remarkable results across measures of quality of life, challenging behaviour and staff satisfaction.

It is a model that incorporates Positive Behaviour Support and Active Support, and uses a method called Periodic Service Review to set goals and measure progress in eight areas of support, called Domains, that are key to improving quality of life. Taken together, the Domains are a way of organising support so that people are empowered to be active in all the areas of life that matter.

Before we can introduce it successfully in Discovery, we need to give colleagues a grounding in some specific support principles, in particular ‘Active Support’ which will help colleagues support a person’s journey to independence by thinking about what to do ‘with’, as opposed to ‘for’, someone. To find out more about Activate visit


Some families were understandably concerned at the BBC’s Inside Out report in March. I want to take this opportunity to talk briefly about our approach to keeping people safe.

First, we are aiming to increase (not decrease) the amount of safeguarding reporting that takes place. It’s important that any provider doesn’t try to sweep things under the rug. It is vitally important that Discovery has a positive, learning culture around reporting incidents so people we support, colleagues and families feel able and confident to report incidents. The success of all our processes depends on this culture being in place.

As a family member you should know how to make a complaint, and conversely how to offer a compliment. Both are absolutely essential. In the first instance, non-emergency complaints should be addressed to your relative’s support team. A factsheet about this can be found on our website alongside other factsheets you may find useful.

It also important to assure you on serious incidents. Our safeguarding reporting culminates in a regular, independently chaired safeguarding panel, which aims to help us identify patterns, learn lessons and improve processes.

Ultimately, support work will always be about human interaction – and people being people, mistakes can happen. Through our processes and our culture we aim to minimise those mistakes, and ensure they get reported.


The BBC programme also generated a number of compliments. Compliments are hugely motivating and can set off a virtuous circle of improvements to support quality. Whenever a colleague is complimented in writing by a family member, we send him or her a thank you card and small voucher as appreciation for their hard work. Your feedback does really go a long way in continuously improving our support.

Such compliments or recognition also feeds into the “Discovery Everyday Heroes” award. Stories of outstanding support are judged by a panel of people we support. You can read more about this here. Anyone can nominate people for an Everyday Hero award, and it is hugely motivating. Who could you nominate?

Other news

You may know that half of any surplus Discovery makes is reinvested into the Somerset community through the Discovery Community Fund. Administered by the Somerset Community Foundation, this fund had overwhelming demand in its first funding round. We are shortly to announce the successful bidders and look forward to the next round in the summer.

A group of around 30 people, made up of, people we support, families, colleagues and some external faces have embarked on the ‘All Together Better’ course. The course title says a lot in itself. It seeks to get people together, with the same understanding and help provide skills and support to influence local government with a view to making things better for everyone. The following feedback comes from the first session:

“It has opened my thoughts & challenged my Ideas. it has made me question my daughters schooling, something I didn’t think I would or need to.”

“Building my confidence to speak out and question certain systems, understand what support is available to people and what support can change…”

We are producing a ‘progress review’ to mark our two year anniversary. The progress review will take a candid look at the topics covered in this letter and many more. It won’t gloss over the challenges, but nor will it dwell in the past.

The progress review will shortly be available on the website but will be shared directly with families as well.

Finally, it is almost time for our 2019 surveys of families, people we support and colleagues, whose results will inform our annual ‘Working Together For Change’ programme.

This survey really is meaningful; following last year’s survey, for example, we recruited a family consultant. We put on a series of free Care Act training sessions across the county. We changed the way we communicate with families through the launch of family & friends forums, and letters like this. And we continue to work really hard on improving various aspects of our support and the way we work in partnership with families that were highlighted by the survey. Do look out for the 2019 survey.