Why Person-Centred Planning is vital for better lives for children and adults with disabilities

with Linda Jordan of NDTi

We have probably all heard of person-centred planning and that it's a jolly good idea when organising and commissioning services for disabled people, especially when preparing for adulthood. Putting the needs of the individual at the heart is what the Children and Families Act is supposed to be all about. Unfortunately, all too often it's forgotten completely, because of costs, lack of training, "COVID" (the catch-all), or just generally, because CBA*.

The National Development Team for Inclusion is all about person-centred planning. The NDTi's Linda Jordan is here to tell us what it is and why it's vital.

What is Person-Centred Planning and why is it so important? by Linda Jordan, NDTi

Person-centred planning has been around for a long time and has been used in the UK for over thirty years. We learned about person-centred planning from colleagues in North America, where families wanting inclusive education for their children needed to present a different and positive narrative to show that they were children first with the same needs, aspirations and gifts as all children. In addition, it was the way in which planning was developed to support people moving from the long-stay mental handicap institutions in the 1970s.

Until 2001, person-centred planning in this country was used withing the voluntary sector and among families and was promoted and supported by organisations like Helen Sanderson Associates. The Valuing People strategy published in 2001 introduced the requirement to use person-centred planning to support people with learning disabilities being discharged from the long-stay "mental handicap" hospitals, to move into real homes in the community. During the life of the Valuing People Strategy, there was a four-year programme of training to introduce person-centred planning into the children’s world. This training was for families, young people, schools, colleges, social care and health.


The experience of the Preparing for Adulthood Team is that, for all sorts of reasons, person-centred planning is not embedded through the system and many people are not aware of its purpose and benefits. There is evidence emerging from the Ofsted/CQC area SEND inspections that planning is not yet working in the way that was intended by the Children and Families Act and the report of the Local Government and Social Care report Not Going to Plan? published in October 2019 confirms this.

Plans need to be holistic, outcome-focused and aspirational. Person-centred planning is designed exactly to achieve this. For this reason, the team has re-launched a suite of person-centred planning tools to help make planning more dynamic and outcome-focused leading to better lives for children, young people and their families.

The Approach

Person-centred planning is a way of supporting a person to achieve the things that are important to them in their life. There are different person-centred approaches, but they all focus on three key questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What is important to you?
  3. What support do you need to achieve the things that are important to you?

Traditionally, a person-centred planning meeting includes the person and their “circle of support”. This is a group of people who come together to support a person to plan and can include friends and family as well as paid professionals. The meeting has a facilitator who guides the conversations and somebody to record what is agreed. In our experience a good plan can be developed in a couple of hours. Once we have a plan which clearly sets a person’s hopes and dreams for now and in the future and outcomes are agreed, reviewing the plan is much more straightforward. The questions that the facilitator uses to guide the conversation are:

  • What do people like and admire about you?
  • Who are the important people in your life?
  • What is important to you, now and in the future?
  • What is important for you now and in the future? 
  • What is working in your life?
  • What is not working so well?

Once this information is gathered it is possible to agree the outcomes that everyone will work towards and then people agree what they will be doing to support the person to achieve their outcomes.

New Tools for PCP

image of the new tools offered by NDTi

The recently launched person-centred planning tools can be found here. The tools can be downloaded as an editable PDF or a printable version.

NDTi is running a week long inclusion festival week commencing 15th March. It’s free and you can book on to as many or as few sessions as you choose. We have some great speakers lined up to share good practice and get the conversation going. All of the details can be found here 

About Preparing for Adulthood

Preparing for Adulthood (PfA) is a programme delivered by National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) and funded by the Department for Education as delivery support for the SEND reforms as part of the Delivering Better Outcomes Together (DBOT) consortium.

The DBOT partnership brings together a wide range of expertise and experience of working with young people and families, at a local and national level and across government, to support young people into adulthood with paid employment, good health, independent living options and friends, relationships and community inclusion.

The PfA team previously worked on key transition programmes including the Transition Support Programme, Valuing People Now, Valuing Employment Now (Getting a Life project, Jobs First, Aspirations for Life and Project Search) and Learning for Living and Work.

Download this as a PDF here

*CBA: Can't be Arsed....

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Tania Tirraoro

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