Made to measure or bespoke?
For a long time, I thought that by offering people and families a ‘menu’ of services to choose from, I was empowering people to make decisions.
There’s been a lot spoken about the concept of ‘choice’ in relation to the way we offer support. For a long time, I thought that by offering people and families a ‘menu’ of services to choose from, I was empowering people to make decisions. I thought that my ‘menu’ of service was in some way helping to build a unique or bespoke support package.
I can now see that there is a world of difference between a ‘menu’, and a bespoke or co-produced service. The ‘menu’ type approach has been described to me as providers really doing more of the same with a little twist. We decide what we put on our ‘menu’, what is available. We may think that by working in this way we are empowering people to decide but we, the provider, are in control – we have the power to decide what is on or off our ‘menu’.
A bespoke or co-produced service is not predetermined by us, the provider. The person or family who have asked for support are in the driving seat. Our role as the provider is to create a supportive service that truly meets their needs. There is no ‘menu’ – we create the support together.
My light bulb moment came from a piece of work lead by Nan Carle Beauregard. Nan has helped us work with some families. These families were clear that what they wanted was bespoke. Nan described this to me as being the difference between a made to measure suit and a bespoke suit. The made to measure suit is based on an existing pattern and what the tailor does is alter that pattern to fit the person. The bespoke suit has no pattern, it is made from scratch. There are no rights or wrongs in either approach. Some people prefer made to measure – it is quicker and less expensive. For others, the bespoke option is what they want, need and are willing to pay the additional costs. It comes down to personal choice.
Why is any of this relevant? It is important we are honest with ourselves and more importantly with people we support. If a menu or ‘made to measure’ package is what we offer, then be clear and talk that through. There is nothing wrong with this. The problem comes when we confuse ‘menu’ or made to measure with bespoke. Expectations get muddled, and everyone is left in the worst of both worlds – in a poorly fitting suit, which is uncomfortable.
I hope all of this makes sense. Happy to talk if you want to send me your comments through our website?
Before I go, one of my favourite inclusive theatre groups is celebrating their 18th birthday and to celebrate here is their version of Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off.