Build relationships, not houses

Last 2 days have been about learning how supporting living works in Greece, and how to improve it and make it available to many more people.
It was a conference in Athens, held by Estia to mark 10 years of providing supported living services.

They kindly invited me to talk about support for independent living and inclusion to an audience of parents, service providers, local and national authorities.
This is what I talked about:

As we were gathering for (for many of us) first-in-a-long-time face to face conference, you could sense the excitement and expectation. Of seeing others. Of being together.
It tells you all you need to know about humans. It tells you about what the support services should help them to do, to be.
Humans are a social animal. In support services, build relationships, not houses.

We heard it from the previous speakers:
From the mother who was so proud of her daughter being recognised for contributing to the house re-decorations.

From the parents who talked about their doubts about the future of their daughter or son. And about finding a peace of heart because she or he have a good place to live. A place from where they can be part of the world.

From the young man who shared his experience and views on what a good support is, and what it does for him.

They said it for me: A good support is all about a place.
But not just a place as in having somewhere to live, important as it is.
Good support is all about a place in this world.

About the roles each of us have in the lives of others: being a daughter, a sister, a mother; a friend; being a colleague at work; an expert in something you contribute to others.

Good support is about helping people to be all these things that make us part of the world. That give us security in the knowledge and the feeling we have others we can rely on.

When discussing social care services, too much time is spent talking about houses.
(And don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against houses 😊)

Too much emphasis goes to housekeeping skills, cooking, cleaning, as a “pre-condition for independent living”.

Independent living and inclusion in community is not something you achieve when you learn to cook, to make the bed…

Independent living is about who makes the decisions about your life.
And how included in the world around you you are.
What place in it you have.

There needs to be support for people to be able to build and keep social relations and social roles.
To help a person find and keep a job.
To help a person find and keep friends, a family.

Remember it when funding, providing social care services.

What matters is living in your own place.
Having friends. Making your own choices.
Being good at something.

As someone important to this city said thousands of years ago:
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

Listen to Pericles: Build relationships, not houses.