How role plays have helped us to design support for people setting up small businesses using self-directed support

Role play props ready for use

As a commissioner of support services it can be easy to feel like the work we do is somehow removed from the people who need to use those services…

As a person who works for a living it can be easy to lose sight of the other benefits and impacts in my life that are drawn from ‘going to work’ and it can be easy to take for granted that I have the option to work or to set up a business…

These things could mean that I do not fully understand the broader implications and positive impacts that people who use services could experience in the world of work or business, or how difficult it may or may not be for them to be a part of that world.

I would like to think that having been a young carer to my father, a parent carer to my son, a volunteer and working in both the voluntary and statutory sectors, that I have, over my life, gained some understanding of the breadth of some of the issues, but an expert I am not, and not even close to being one!

The role plays were fun and enjoyable with lots of laughter for the whole group.  But they were also a great way to explore all of the benefits of work and business and not just the obvious financial benefit that is too easy to consider as the be all and end all of it.  A sense of purpose, meaningful occupation, enjoyment, social contact, keeping mind or body active…all can be achieved in work and business.  The role plays allowed us to consider the challenges and barriers to setting up small businesses in a non-threatening environment that was safe and was a positive experience.  Identifying potential challenges in this way means that we can begin to look at the supports and solutions that would help to overcome those challenges before people have to face them in ‘real life’ situations.

The role plays also allowed us to ‘try out’ some of the potential support solutions that we had begun to consider and by doing so we could begin to find out what was more likely to work and be achievable and ultimately make a real difference to those people who needed them.

Both taking part and watching the other role plays contributed to my greater understanding and learning about the importance of the right type of support and the value of informal as well as formal supports.  But most of all in inspired me to want to be a part of the solution rather than one of the barriers.