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The PBS Academy

The PBS Academy

Improving understanding about, and enhancing the delivery of, Positive Behavioural Support (PBS)

An estimated 2.6% of adults in the UK have an intellectual disability. One in five of those is vulnerable to developing behaviours that challenge others and risk harm, and which can often affect the quality of health and social care they receive. Positive Behavioural Support (PBS) assesses the social, physical and individual context in which these behaviours occur, and builds interventions to improve quality of life and reduce behaviours that challenge. A team led by Professor Richard Hastings and Dr Louise Denne worked to address the implementation issues that have held services back from engaging with PBS.

The challenge

Repeated scandals within care services, and a lack of strong guidance and training, have made reforming policies and practices a national priority and PBS has often been highlighted as an important part of improving support for people with intellectual disability. Despite its potential to improve care for those with an intellectual disability, PBS is not implemented to a high level of quality in services and professionals. Services have not, historically, had ready access to information to understand PBS. The PBS Academy, a small group of UK PBS experts led by the University of Warwick, explored solutions to these challenges.

Our approach

Dr Louise Denne, alongside Professor Hastings and leading practitioners, academic experts and other stakeholders (people with intellectual disability, family carers, staff) in PBS across the UK have developed a Competency Framework for practitioners and other stakeholders to deliver best practice PBS to people with intellectual disability. This rests on several principles:

  • People with intellectual disability and their families have a right to high quality support that promotes quality of life over their lifespan

  • Staff need to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team to develop evidence-based supports

  • Using clear standards allows organisations to be confident in their staff

  • Commissioners need a better grasp of the nature and use of PBS in practice

  • Practitioners gain from professional development and workplace standards

  • Practice-based research will add to the evidence base for PBS

Our impact

The PBS Academy has informed policies across care services for adults with intellectual disability. Following the Winterbourne View scandal in 2011, the ‘Time for Change’ report referred to the PBS Academy’s Framework as the ‘nearest we have to a standard’ for PBS services. This has fed into training programmes supporting 160,000 students, and the nationwide Service Model for Commissioners. Growing out of their Framework, the PBS Academy produced a set of Standards for third sector organisations which directly influenced Skills for Care, the Department for Health and Social Care’s delivery partner.

A set of resources (freely available through the PBS Academy) have also helped families and carers make sense of PBS, helping them to plan care and ask practitioners the right questions. In addition, the Care Quality Commission has invited the PBS Academy team to collaborate with their reforms to inspection processes. This unprecedented partnership shows the scale of the impact that Warwick researchers are having on improving PBS implementation.

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