Dimensions is one of the largest not-for-profit U.K. providers supporting 3,500 people with learning disabilities, autism, challenging behaviour and complex needs. Dimensions focuses on supporting people to live active and fulfilling lives within their local community.
Following a research phase, Dimensions has been rolling out it’s unique support model, Activate, which combines the three important concepts of positive behaviour support, active support and Periodic Service Review

The Challenge

The Activate methodology is based on extensive social care research carried out by the Tizard Centre (University of Kent), Dimensions and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation. Research was carried out over 2 years in 24 services and the result was a new support model that would benefit more than 3,500 people supported.

Dimensions wanted to address challenging behaviour in a way that improved people’s lives while also keeping the person at the centre of their own care and support. The problem with a roll out of the methodology on a large scale was delivering a new technological infrastructure to support this outcomes-based model whilst managing the challenging nature of change for the front line workforce.

Creating A Configurable Solution

The Activate support model has been implemented across Dimension’s keeping the individuals at the centre of the programme. The first step and key to success of implementing the method was getting people at all levels of the organisation involved and invested in the success of it.
The next step to the roll out was getting the IT solution to fit correctly. Following an extensive selection process, including two phases of pilots, iplanit was selected as a supplier.

iplanit could be tailored to support the digitisation of support records and plans allowing for the establishment of outcomes in each of the 8 key Activate goal areas/domains. This simple, real time format lends to effective monitoring of progress and achievement of these outcomes.


The impact of change on Dimensions was significant at all levels, regardless of extensive planning to minimize disruption during transition from one way of working to another. For the frontline staff, the mix of age, technical ability, languages and the endless requirement to fit admin tasks around good quality support is a constant pressure every day, let alone during the rollout of a new support model and adopting digital ways of working.
The initial challenges were around security and familiarity. Staff were used to paper recording, and the security of a physical record. Digital confidence was something Dimensions had not expected to be an area requiring greater support. Some staff reported that working digitally, made them cautious, as they might “lose their work” and “wouldn’t have time to write it again without compromising the quality of support they should be providing”.

As such, local ‘training cafes’ were created, as well as team champions, to support those who were still adapting to iplanit. An additional benefit of these ‘cafes’, Dimensions came to realise, was the sharing of good news stories and achievements made through Activate, that sometimes got lost in the everyday rush and pressures. Over time, the efficiencies and ease of digital record keeping, drove an appetite in the operations teams for more. Dimensions are now looking at methods to digitise the remaining paperwork used.

For senior management, the deployment of the new support model, necessary training and IT infrastructure was all new. There was no prior project that had attempted this together and therefore, no previous lessons to learn from. As such, a phased approach was adopted, to ensure mistakes and inefficiencies were quickly realised, and revised in future phases. Whilst this increased the risk of the project, the core group worked hard and met monthly, to review progress and identify issues and manage them accordingly. The learning from the last 18 months was captured at the end of 2018. Discovery, a subsidiary of the Dimensions Group, will be adopting Activate and digital front line working over the coming year, and will significantly benefit from lessons already learnt.

This unique combination of person-centred values, a drive for greater quality of life of those supported and a desire to simplify information storage and access has led to a successful roll out of Activate. Activate responded to the demands to meet a new PBS competence framework while also progressing with modern technology and digitally transforming care planning and reporting.