Shirley Cusack

ICS Associate (West Central) and developing work focusing on Children and Families

Director of Keys to Inclusion                                                                                        

I am passionate about developing fair and inclusive communities.  To develop this vision, I have been working on and learning about strategies for implementing self-directed support (SDS) using an approach based on human rights and focussed on inclusive living.  Keys to Inclusion was set up in 2010 to work to increase inclusion and independence by working with disabled children and young people and their families and with workers who can help promote positive change.

I have worked with families, organised events and produced documents and training to bring about more person centred working, self-direction and control.  This includes, for example, an event for IRISS on personalisation for children and families, leading to a section in a Social Work text book on the professional perspective on SDS (2012).   I believe strongly in the possibilities for inclusion and rights that can come from SDS and have developed training for local authority staff, students, social enterprises and community groups and promoted the ideas through things like an article on SDS and children in ‘Professional Social Work’ Magazine; ‘A new direction’ (SASW, June 2014).

Have learned that working on new materials to provide information on SDS, new assessment processes, and new resource allocation systems can seem to be the easier part of this work.  Involving families and staff in training on support planning and outcomes has been more important and sometimes the challenge is to promote more of a partnership approach from organisations who feel constrained by limited resources.  Working in partnership with families at all stages is always my priority as working together is the key to better support and lasting change.   ‘Taking the First Steps’ was an excellent opportunity to start with families and to show just how quickly even this small amount of increased control can begin to make a difference to families, and how much we can learn from this.

I have gained most of my skills from working in the voluntary sector, focussing on issues around human rights, equalities and disability.  This included developing inclusive practice in work with disabled children, young carers and children affected by domestic abuse.  I have skills in assessment, training, development and information provision through work as an Associate Lecturer for the Open University and as a Practice Teacher and as a regional advisor and assessor for Comic Relief.  I worked for 7 years as a Due Regard Member of the Registration and Conduct Committee of the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC), gaining further skills in cooperative decision making in complex situations.

As well as training and consultancy, I am currently working with a family led organisation, social enterprises and voluntary organisations in East Lothian to look at further developments in community organisation and inclusive provision for local children and young people.  I enjoy the enthusiasm and commitment of working together in a community and feel there is great potential for working cooperatively.

My particular skills are around equalities, policy and practice development, training and professional development, culture change and developing positive, inclusive communities and organisations.  I have particular skills in sharing a vision for the future and working with others towards that vision.  My interests include all of the above and particularly work with children, families and the ‘whole life’ approach.