Person-centred planning is a way of helping someone to plan their life and support, focusing on what's important to the person. Person-centred planning has five key features:

  • the person is at the centre of the planning process
  • family and friends are partners in planning
  • the plan shows what is important to a person now and for the future and what support they need
  • the plan helps the person to be part of a community of their choosing and helps the community to welcome them
  • the plan puts into action what a person wants for their life and keeps on listening - the plan remains 'live'

In England, Scotland and Wales, policies and legislation since 2001 have led to the adoption of person-centred planning by all local authorities. In Northern Ireland, all and Social Care Trusts are expected to start moving towards this way of working by 2015.

Person-centred thinking is as important as the planning. It means that support staff hold person-centred values, and a belief that a person must have control in areas such as who supports them, what they do with their day, being listened to, and making decisions about their lives.

Support from professionals and family

All these styles of planning require a trained person, called a person-centred planning facilitator, to support the process. These are skilled people who involve everyone in the person's life in their 'relationship circle'. They also encourage and support the individual to take control of their own plan. They are very creative in their methods and have extensive knowledge of advocacy, working with families, finance, housing issues and how to develop better support for people.

Families can also support person-centred plans, often using tools such as Families Leading Planning. They make a commitment to the person to put plans into action.

Person-centred planning and people on the autism spectrum

Person-centred planning is based around the individual and is ideal for people on the autism spectrum. Planning tools may need to be adapted and terminology often needs to be changed so that it can be understood by the person. It is essential that the person’s preferred ways of communicating are taken into account so that they can play a full part in the planning process.

Personalisation, self-directed support and support plans

There is an increasing move towards personalisation and self-directed support in funded community and social care. In self-directed support, the person knows how much money they are entitled to for their support and they have choice and control over how it is spent. This money may be referred to as a personal budget.

Support plans for Personal Budgets

After the community care assessment process (including self-assessment), a person will be awarded an indicative budget and can then develop their support plan. This can be developed by anyone: the person, anyone in their circle of support, an advocate or a person-centred planning facilitator or broker.

The information in a person's support plan is taken from their person-centred plan but has a distinct difference - a person-centred plan is confidential to that person but a support plan has to be shared with the sponsoring authority and their funding panel. The support plan can be helpful if the person's indicative budget is not enough to cover their support costs.

The support plan should include:

  • what is important to the person
  • what the person wants to change
  • how the person will arrange their support
  • how the person will spend their personal budget
  • how the person will manage their support
  • how the person will stay in control and be involved in decision-making
  • an action plan to explain what happens next.

More from our charity

Autism Services Directory

Community care for adults

Community care for young people

Community care for children

Our training and consultancy

Further information

Families Leading Planning

Helen Sanderson Associates

in Control

National Brokerage Network

Think local act personal

Legislation, policies and guidance

Adult Autism Strategy: statutory guidance (England)

The Scottish Strategy for Autism

Care Act 2014 (England)

Equality Act 2010

Human Rights Act 1998

Transforming your care (2013) (Northern Ireland)

Further reading

Cole, A. and Lloyd, A. (2005). Shaping the future together: a strategic planning tool for services supporting people with learning disabilities. London: Mental Health Foundation

Cowan, L., Bradley, A. and Murray, K. (2006). My life plan: an interactive resource for person centred planning. [CD and User Guide]. Finstown, Orkney: Information Plus

Davies, J., Burke, C. and Mattingly, M. (2009). We can dream: ways of planning for the future for young people with autistic spectrum disorders. London: Foundation for people with learning disabilities

Dowell, E., Johns, N. and Cooper, A. (2007). Autism and independence. A guide for local authorities: enabling adults with an autism spectrum disorder to achieve greater independence. London: The National Autistic Society.

Edmonds, G. (2006). Person-centred approaches to autistic spectrum conditions (ASC). Imagine, 14, pp12-18

Franklin, S with Helen Sanderson (2013). Personalisation in practice. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Fulton, K. and Kinsella, P. (2009). Individual service design: a guide for people who want to turn their support ideas into reality. Birkenhead: Paradigm.

Glynn, M. et al (2008). Person-centred support: what service users and practitioners say. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Harper, S. and McClay, L. (2005). Person centred planning in East Anglia: supporting people to have real lives. Communication, 39(2), pp42-43

Innes, A., Macpherson, S. and McCabe, L. (2006). Promoting person-centred care at the front line. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Moore, T. (2005). Person centred services for adults with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) in Surrey. Surrey: The Autism Project.

National Autistic Society. (2010). Personalisation briefing: implications for people with autistic spectrum conditions and their family carers. London: Social Care Institute for Excellence.

National Transition Support Team (2011) Person centred approaches in transition planning. London: National Transition Support Team.

Pitts, J. (2009). BILD guide: an introduction to personalisation. Kidderminster: British Institute of Learning Disabilities. 9781905218141

Robertson, J. et al (2005). The impact of person centred planning. Lancaster: Institute for Health Research, Lancaster University. 

Sanderson, H., Lunt, J. and The National Autistic Society (2009). Person-centred thinking for people who have autism. Stockport: The Learning Community for Person-Centred Practices.

Last updated: April 2014