VELA microboards

Summary

A Microboard™ is a small (micro) group of committed family and friends who join together with a particular individual to create a non-profit society, or a board. Together, they will help the individual plan his/her life, advocate for what he/she needs, monitor services and ensure they are safe, and connect him/her to the wider community.

Issue addressed

Vela is a good example of a structure for developing person-centered Microboards. Vela has supported the creation of 900+ Microboards in British Columbia.

Background information

The very first Microboards have been set up in the Canadian province of Manitoba in 1984. At the time, support services were limited and offered mainly ‘group’ residential services, daytime, as well as foster care for adults. There were waiting lists, very little opportunity to change service if it did not fit that person’s actual needs, and clients were often disconnected from the community because of larger scale of the services. Having experienced this, several major objectives were defined with the view of setting up microboards: 1. Establish a mechanism for direct individualized funding, which was not available in Manitoba at that time 2. Provide a mechanism for bringing effective control of support services into the hands of the person who was being supported and the people who were closest to him or her 3. Develop an understandable pattern for drawing together an intentional citizen-based personal support network 4. Develop a pattern that would define and maintain the identity and efforts of the support network (the Microboard members and allied others)

Description of practice

As previously stated, a microboard is is a small group of committed family or friends whom, together with a particular individual, create a non-profit society to help that individual plan his/her life, access funding and help deliver the services that the individual needs. The Board can thus create services that are creative, flexible and reflect the needs of the individual. Board members can be parents and siblings, family members and relatives, friends of the family, people who have worked with the individual and bonded with them or shown a keen interest in his/her life, people the individual meets on a daily basis and are interested in them. It is not necessary for board members have expertise in a specific area of disability or support services – these are skills that can be learned from others. Vela Microboards recommends having a minimum of 5 board members within a particular Board. Five to eight people keeps it personal, yet dynamic. Board members spend time with the person in whatever way is natural for those involved. Together, the Microboard will help the individual experience a full life by helping him/her to plan his/her life, to brainstorm and solve problems, to advocate for what he/she needs, to do fun things together, to connect to his/her wider community, to monitor supports services and ensure he/she is safe. This will require regular meetings of the Microboard, more often at the beginning or when there are issues that need to be addressed. The work of the Board should be person centered and all people are assumed to have the capacity for self-determination. This capacity has to be acknowledged, respected, and demonstrated in all of the dealings of the Microboard. The Microboard may also want to access funding for the individual, become the contractor and hire a respite caregiver and/or home share provider, and/or become the employer and hire the support workers. Here, you can find an important set of principles to set up a Microboard, as well as Guidelines for Board members, including on conflicts of interests and liability.  The Vela association can also provide specific support (lawyer, financial adviser, risk management consultant), where the Board members have no expertise.

Analysis

The Microboard model is very interesting because it offers a complex tool to plan for the future, and to manage and fund a range of individualized support. It gives circles of support a legal tool to act over services providers and ensure that the individual gets appropriated support services. It also allows to react quickly and independently to new or additional needs without relying on state or municipal services or on the availability of social services. The Microboard is composed of people who are present in the life of the supported person. The collective management is a good safeguard against abuse. It also seems to allow effective management as people who know the supported person well can see the whole picture and provide the most effective types of supports available. However, the person him/herself is not part of the Board, and thus there is the risk of the Board planning or deciding without properly working out the wishes and preferences of the person or on things that the person does not want. Although self-determination is a guiding principle, this method of working could lead to a lack of involvement of the person itself. The complexity of the role of the Microboard may also be non-transparent, unclear and confusing for the person with an intellectual disability. There is also the risk that the Board, because of its large scope of work, would take on more support responsibility than it can manage, or take on a role that is seriously under funded. There is also the risk of the Board becoming too complicated, managing too many things – it is therefore important to keep things simple. While it is an interesting model which can combine different features it is obvious that it is not appropriated for people who have a certain level of independence and live autonomously, as they are not part of the decision-making. It is, however, a good model for people with complex needs, who need to combine several types of individualized support and who may need advocates to represent them. Last but not least, it is a model that works only for people with a functioning circle of support. Isolated single mothers or fathers supporting their son or daughter with intellectual disabilities may not find people their son or daughter can trust or people committed to offer such support.

Further reading

You can read about the development of microboards and its principles here. More information on the Vela Microboard Association in British Columbia is available here.

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