A HAMPSHIRE County Council training programme, that empowers people with learning disabilities to voice their thoughts, aspirations and needs more effectively, has won a prestigious care award.

The FACES (Friendship, Assertiveness, Choice, Emp-owerment and Social Skills) programme won the ‘Putting People First’ category in the Great South East Care Awards and is now through to the national finals.

FACES trains staff in the council’s Learning Disability Services to support people with learning disabilities to develop their life and social skills, empowering them to communicate how they would like to live their life and what is important to them.

It is a flexible programme that can be adapted for a range of learning abilities. The programme makes use of pictorial support, signing games and feeling boards, which can be adapted to help people gain confidence and skills to communicate their life choices and express their thoughts and feelings.

FACES has been designed, commissioned and delivered with the help of people with learning disabilities who worked closely with county council staff and external training providers.

Hampshire County Council also joined forces with local author, trainer and speech therapist, Alex Kelly, to create FACES. Alex is internationally known for her work with people with learning disabilities and runs a day service in Ower called Speaking Space.

Around 50 people with learning disabilities are now being supported under the project.

The Great South East Care Awards, supported by the Department of Health, are part of the Great British Care Awards, a series of regional awards that celebrate excellence in social care and pay tribute to those who work in the sector throughout England.

The awards cover the statutory, independent and voluntary sectors, as well as unpaid carers. Winners from the regional awards will be invited to attend the national finals in London in April and June 2014.

On making the award, the judges’ comments were: “FACES is such a simple concept that has a huge impact on individuals and their relationships. It should be adapted and implemented in all care settings. Truly deserving of this award – well done!”

Councillor Liz Fairhurst, executive member for adult social care and public health, said: “It is vital that whatever their disability, people are able to live the life they choose. FACES gives people with learning disabilities the skills and confidence to make their thoughts, feelings and choices known.

“FACES is part of our approach to helping people to live more independently, with greater choice and control over their lives and the care and support that they receive.

“The scheme is all about putting people first and is a deserving winner.”