Nick’s Rule: One young person’s mission to give everyone a voice


How did the Essex 100 Day Challenge focusing on Learning Disabilities and Autism challenge assumptions and allow people to have their voices heard?

Essex’s most recent 100 Day Challenge has come to an end and, as the dust has settled, the People Powered Results team have had the chance to reflect on what made the Challenge such a unique experience for us and those taking part.

The focus of the Challenge was to help Essex County Council and communities to learn how to support people with learning disabilities and autism to live a meaningful life. Three teams across the county tested sixteen ideas ranging from new ways of supporting young people into employment, to bringing health services into the community and setting up an inclusive cricket team.

The Challenge gave team members the space to collaborate and build on each other’s expertise – it involved more than 36 organisations and 23 people with learning disabilities and autism, working together to improve outcomes for more than 300 people.

Whilst many of the ideas have had a transformative impact on people with learning disabilities and autism, something unexpected also emerged from the Challenge that has started a new way of working across Essex County Council’s Adult Social Care department.

Celebrating the end of the 100 Day Challenge

Allow us to introduce ‘Nick’s Rule’

In a nutshell “Nick’s Rule” is an approach to decision making that makes sure everyone has an equal voice and the opportunity for their ideas to be heard. It is the brainchild of Nicholas Bunyon who, during the 100 Day Challenge, was taking part in a supported internship programme for young people with learning disabilities and autism at Essex County Council.

So how did the rule come about?

Nick was part of the ‘leadership team’ – a group of decision makers, service managers, and commissioners from Essex County Council and organisations across Essex who provided oversight and enabling support for the 100 Day Challenge. Nick explains:

“It all started on the Day 25 event of the 100 Day Challenge. This was a leadership meeting where a lot of things were said about why the challenge might not work. I then expressed my own ideas and said what was on my mind, being passionate about changing the way things are currently done and run.”

Nick’s ideas formed the basis of a set of rules that Nick worked on with people in the council and community groups to develop into a quality standard and assessment tool. This tool aims to ensure:

  • All ideas are heard
  • Everyone has a voice
  • Decisions can be made by people who aren’t in the most senior positions
  • People have the freedom to carry out their ideas
  • People have a budget to allow them to carry on with ideas and plans

So far Nick’s Rule has been used across the Adult Social Care department at the council. Social workers now use it in their reviews and team meetings, as well as at the Forums that they hold to discuss individual cases.

Nick with Gavin Jones – the Chief Executive of Essex County Council
This approach might seem simple and common sense but anyone who has attempted to navigate decision-making within local systems will know that the hierarchies, structures, processes, and red tape in place can often inhibit innovation and meaningful involvement.
Nick’s Rule did not come about by chance. The teams involved in Essex were ambitious in their attempts to meaningfully involve people with learning disabilities and autism the whole way through the Challenge – from coming up with and testing ideas, leading teams as Team Captain, and taking part in leadership activities.
Nick was provided with an opportunity to have his voice heard, an opportunity that perhaps isn’t often afforded his peers. He is clear on the value he sees in this opportunity:
“Being part of the leadership team was really interesting as it gave me a sense of responsibility. It also gave me an insight as to how a group like that might work. If I wasn’t part of the leadership team, I don’t think Nick’s Rule would’ve come about, it was only because I was on the team that it did. Now, hopefully,Nick’s Rulewill help change the way Essex county council is structured and allow people to feel more at ease with things they may want to do.”
– Nick

So what is next for Nick’s Rule?

Nick is ambitious about its role going forwards: “I think that my hopes for the future for “Nick’s rule” is that it becomes more well known and gives people the inspiration they might need to come up with new ideas to help improve Essex and its citizens.”
Are there enough examples of this kind of co-production taking place in our health and care systems? How often are people like Nick given the platform to share their ideas and insights, and, more importantly, have the support to turn them into reality?

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