Light bulb moment: Gillian Morbey on how giving people control changes lives

A key insight into the working life of the chief executive of the deafblind charity Sense

Gillian Morbey
Gillian Morbey

A young man who was deafblind and lived in one of our homes had very challenging behaviour. He was destructive and would break furniture. He was one of a group of service users whom we moved from a registered care service to a supported living service.

This young man had profound communication needs and did not seem to be particularly in tune with his environment. Our team spent time with him, visiting the new home and helping him to choose the decor and furnishings, right down to selecting a new bed. We had to use a range of communication tools, including pictures and symbols. The whole preparation process took about four months. His destructive behaviour stopped overnight when he moved into his new home. It was an amazing transformation. I never expected the process to make him feel so empowered, confident and in control of his own environment.

That was 15 years ago and I have not forgotten the importance of giving people the time to work through changes and new situations. In the third sector we aspire to include service users in all aspects of our work, but we are busy and it can be tempting to cut corners. This young man's experience reminds me of the importance of communicating well and shows that giving people control does change lives.

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