Shaping My Future: Complete Guide

Shaping My Future: a guide for people with physical disabilities in Essex is a new resource with ideas and information  for disabled people to plan for the things in life that are important to them. It was written by Christine Towers at Together Matters, alongside an expert reference group who brought their knowledge, skills and experience of living with a disability. Pre COVID, Essex County Council funded research which found that many disabled people in Essex felt that their opportunities were limited and their lives were stuck; commissioning this guide was one of their responses to these findings.

Christine previously wrote the Thinking Ahead guides which have been widely used over the past ten years by people with learning disabilities, their families, supporters and practitioners in social care, health and education. Through sharing the Thinking Ahead approach to planning, in workshops and training, a lot has been learnt about what gives people confidence and motivation to take steps to make the changes in their life they’d like to have. This can be difficult for many reasons, including the amount of time and energy it takes to look for helpful ideas and information, to take the first steps and to keep going. Working with disabled people, as well as committed practitioners, to use this learning to develop a new guide and reach a new audience has been exciting and enlightening.

Shaping My Future is full of ideas and information to help people think through, and make decisions about, positive changes they would like to make in their lives. It should also help family, friends, other allies and paid supporters to feel more able to be a planning buddy and to share ideas.

Planning tools and legislation

The guide has six sections and starts with ‘Planning for change: getting started’. It includes ideas and templates, based on person-centred planning tools, to think through what aspects of life are working well at the moment and what could be better. It helps people to think about where they would like to make changes, and plan manageable steps they’d like to take. It also explains various pieces of legislation, such as the Equality Act and the Care Act, so people know their rights that underpin these choices.

The other five sections cover all-important aspects of life: family, friends and connections; learning and working; my home; health and well-being; and going out and about. Look out for more blogs sharing information about these.

More information and access to free downloads for the Thinking Ahead guides and Shaping My Future can be found at

Shaping My Future has been written specifically for people living in Essex, although the ideas are relevant to people living anywhere. Together Matters can adapt the guide for other local authorities by changing references to local information, services and organisations. If you would be interested in exploring this, please email [email protected].