My name is Vicky and I am a MacIntyre Checker: where to begin?
About 11 or 12 years ago I first met Gwenne who asked me if I wanted to help with some things for MacIntyre and it all started off from there.
I first went to a workshop on the Complaints Policy and we talked about if people knew how to make a complaint and if they knew who to talk to if not. It was good to get involved.
I met Gwenne every so often to work on things together and at some point I think I said it would be good if someone checked the paperwork to make sure it was easy to understand. At that time MacIntyre made lots of information but some of it I could not understand.
Gwenne asked me and other people if we would like to help with a new project that could potentially help a lot of staff and people supported (like me) to be able to know what paperwork means. I was pleased to be asked and to be honest I didn’t think I would still be doing this years later – it is now a proper paid job! J
It started off with a group of 8 people and Gwenne (other staff have helped as well) and we were trained about how to make big words easier and how to fit them to the right picture. Fitting the right picture is very important as not everyone can understand the words or read so they need to understand the picture and what it means. Right from the beginning the group had to make decisions together and we use voting to make things fair. We had to decide on a name – The MacIntyre Checkers, and a stamp. Our stamp is what we put on documents when we think it meets our high standards of what all paperwork should be like.
The Checkers were volunteers for about 2 years but then we applied for the jobs, had an interview and became paid staff. We have appraisal targets and do supervision just like other staff. I am coming up to 3 years as a member of staff.
So it started off with small bits of paper work, which people said I was good at it, and then other things happened too. I’ve been to Milton Keynes to interview for a Director and Head of Operations, I’ve been to London for a Skills for Care awards night, I’ve spoken to Trustees at their induction – this was a big thing for me talking to strangers. I am involved in the Autism Special Interest Group (ASIG) and I’ve been in lots of MacIntyre films. The Checkers were nominated for a Marjorie Newton Wright award last year and we went to the awards ceremony. I also won an award last year from BILD for ‘Innovative practice in service user involvement’. All this has happened because I like to help people and get involved. I like to speak up for people who might not always know how to or be able to do this themselves.
At Checkers I learnt about Great Interactions and the 10 facilitation skills – I try to use them all the time. Using the skills helps me to notice if one of the Checkers is struggling or lagging behind a bit. I try to help them catch up or understand where we are at. I think the skills are really good for when I go to other houses as an Expert by Experience to do a checklist – I talk to people and listen carefully to what they tell me. Sometimes I just have to watch as people don’t all speak.
At the end of last year I applied to represent MacIntyre at BILD to talk about the things that matter to people with a disability every day. I applied for the job as this was something I thought I could do to say what people wanted to change in their lives. I got the job and now I get the train by myself to Manchester where I meet Jackie and we go to the meeting in Birmingham together. This is quite a big meeting but I do still speak up for people. At the meeting they asked us to suggest names for what the group could be called. We all did this then voted on what we thought was the best one. We all get a chance to have our say even though it is a big meeting. We have an agenda to follow and we are asked what we want to talk about at the next meeting. BILD collects our information together to use at their other big meetings. After the meeting we have lunch and get to chat more with each other.
Earlier this week I went to my first MacIntyre Co-production meeting with Gwenne. The subject was tricky as most people understood the topic more than me, but I joined in, I asked questions and after a while it made some sense. Today at Checkers I have been telling everyone about co-production and together we have tried to write what co-production means. This is what we came up with
Co-production is everyone working together
Everyone can help make all services and their local area better
Everyone should be listened to and nobody should be left out
Everyone should get a better life
Who would have thought all these years ago when Gwenne and I met that I would be doing all this. I’m much more independent now and have a fuller life.
I look forward to getting even more involved in future.
Great Interactions Team