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stars of social care

Innovation in using symbols and pictures to help our support teams communicate with people we support has earned a Lifeways service manager a ‘Highly Commended’ trophy in the ‘Fabulous Frontline Leader’ category at the Stars of Social Care Awards.

Vanessa Kukuruzovic, a Service Manager for a Lifeways supported living service in Bradford (seen in the white shawl in the picture above) received the award at a ceremony held on Friday, 12 June, at a hotel in central London.

Vanessa won the award for learning Widgit, software that uses pictures and symbols to help people communicate.

Here’s an example, courtesy of Widgit’s website:

Greater accessibility

Vanessa saw how using Widgit’s system of symbols and pictures could help make support plans more accessible.

“I saw that many people my team supports couldn’t read their support plans, and that meant they could not effectively contribute to how their support was delivered,” says Vanessa.

“Learning Widgit, and then teaching it to my team and the people we support, has helped us all better communicate with each other – and made support more centred on the individual,” she adds.

Now she knows Widgit, Vanessa has produced a range of service user guides in Widgit format for other supported living services in the area and has put together activity timetables, meal planners, and place mats.

For activity timetables, she encouraged people to plan activities focusing on their goals using Widgit format.

Individually tailored

Involving speech and language therapy, Vanessa created place mats to help people at mealtimes with communication or sight difficulties. These place mats acted as a quick reference for staff, tailored to each person’s needs.

Vanessa’s success with Widgit as a way to better communicate has generated interest from colleagues across Lifeways, who are now looking to roll out the system further across the organisation.


Estella Dick, the Area Manager of Vanessa’s service, says she is ‘delighted’ that Vanessa’s innovative work has been recognised.

“Better communication is a huge part of delivering better support,” says Estella. “And innovative approaches like the one Vanessa has used are key.”

“What’s more, innovation is one of our CHOICE values – Caring, Honest, One team, Innovative, Courageous, and Equal, which we as an organisation have recently launched. Well done, Vanessa!”

Vanessa used Widgit to communicate her response, referring to both Estella and Tracy Dixon, Regional Director for Lifeways' North East Region:


 A close-up of a white background

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Well done Vanessa!



About Lifeways:

Lifeways is the UK’s largest team of support professionals providing support for adults in the community.

We support adults with diverse and complex needs, including learning disabilities, autism, physical disabilities, acquired brain injuries, and mental health conditions.

Lifeways delivers support across three divisions: supported living, residential and mental health services.

As the supported living sector’s largest team of professionals, Lifeways’ extensive experience and national reach mean we deliver extraordinary support to adults, enabling them to live fulfilling and independent lives in the community. 

Our 11,000 colleagues currently support around 4,000 individuals who live in our 1,500 supported living and residential services across England, Scotland, and Wales. 

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