Barnsley Road Outreach and Community Services (BROCS) is one of our specialist adult day services in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Here we support people with autism and learning disabilities. This month, they’ve become our first service to be accredited by the National Autistic Society (NAS) with ‘Advance Status’, the highest quality mark awarded by the NAS!
NAS accreditation is the UK’s only autism specific quality programme supporting all those providing services to autistic people. It is an internationally recognised quality standard and the longest running around the world.
We spoke to BROCS and ACORNS service manager, Gail Withington, to learn about their journey and how they achieved the advanced level status.
Can you talk us through your accreditation journey?
“We are already accredited by the NAS, and this is renewed every three years when they do a three-day visit. We’ve always got good reviews and after we received our dates for this year, I asked about the application process for the advanced status. Part of this application included case studies showcasing exactly what we do, evidence of how we work, support plans and the type of activities we host. The NAS team came out and started the assessment process by going through all the documents and speaking to parents, families and our team before starting the observations.
“Our teams provided three-day timetables for the NAS moderators and showed them around. Routines are extremely important to the people we support, so the moderators observed at a convenient time for the people we support to prevent disruption. After the observations, we talked through the days with the moderators and answered any questions they had. They then wrote a report for the accreditation and sent it off to a panel. It’s the panel who make the decision based on all the evidence provided whether we get the advanced status, and we did!”
How did you and team feel when the assessment was taking place?
“It was very nerve-racking – especially for the team! This was because we all knew we were being observed, and how much we really wanted to achieve the advanced status. The team did absolutely amazing though!
“For example, we use lots of communication methods including visual, verbal, Makaton, body language and facial tones. NAS Observers looked at how we calmed people down if they got anxious and they also looked at each person’s person-centred care plan to check staff were working as per guidance, following all the information provided and working to continuity.”
How did you make sure that the people we support knew the accreditation assessment was taking place?
“We communicate in so many ways to ensure those we support are comfortable, including introducing the NAS moderators. We know some of the people we support might not like strangers coming into the service, so we always use visuals where necessary. We ask questions to check if they are okay, and even reference via pointing. Some declined being observed, so we made sure to adjust to their needs. We also payed close attention to any changes in behaviour to make sure they were still happy. We actually had three timetables prepared for the accreditation assessment to make sure we were prepared for changing situations, such as somebody not wanting to be included in the observation”.
What would you say are the key things that helped BROCS achieve this status?
“According to the NAS advisor, we have a good understanding of the different needs of autistic people, and I truly believe this is key. We really understand the unique needs of each person we support, working in a person-centred way and using different levels of communication.
“Our teams also have a high level of continual learning and training that is implemented into practice, and this showed in the report too. For example, this was demonstrated through our weekly drills and our weekly Makaton team sessions. We also have three Makaton champions within our team, and this works well because staff are always on top of their training and learning. A third-party Makaton trainer helped us identify staff who excelled well in the training and we chose them as our champions. These team sessions are fun, interactive, relevant to the service and help make support easier.
“During an observation, we had a brilliant example that showed how our training is a key factor for being calm and communicating effectively. One of the people we support became anxious because his ear defenders broke, and he could hear loud noises. The team member knew they were being observed but kept the person calm. They understood the situation well and communicated via walkie talkie to another team member to bring a spare pair of ear defenders all while calming the person down.”
How did you feel when the NAS accreditors told you about being awarded the advanced status?
“We were all thrilled to bits! I asked the advisor what it means when a service achieves the advanced status and they responded,
“To hear that feedback was an amazing feeling and it just shows we have a good understanding of autism, which means we provide a high level of quality support. We’ve not yet celebrated but the feedback alone has made us all so happy!”
Learn more about BROCS!
Community services, like our specialist adult day services, focus on supporting individuals to be a part of the community, gaining confidence and independent living skills. To find out more about our West Yorkshire service, BROCS, please visit the BROCS service page.