Stephen Coulson

Steve Coulson, Thistle Coach and co-creator of the Thistle Approach to working with people.

Steve’s 40 year career is testament to his passion for inclusion and citizenship, challenging social injustice and inequality and recognising the potential of all. He has worked with looked-after young people in residential settings, as well as disabled people and their families, supporting people to pursue their aspirations.

Steve spent more than two decades at City of Edinburgh Council’s Social Work Department and was also a NALGO/Unison Shop Steward before moving to Scottish Human Services (SHS) in 2001. SHS introduced person-centred planning to the UK and Steve’s role was to deliver training to social, health and community development professionals, families and self-advocates. He also worked on the closing of Learning Disability Hospitals in Scotland.

Following a move to the Edinburgh Development Group, Steve led a project which used person-centred planning to support young (disabled) people to plan for good lives after leaving special education. Inspired by this work, Steve then collaborated with Heather Simmons to develop the ‘Big Plan’ for large groups. Today, this continues to be a core element of the work of the Young People’s team at Thistle.

Steve joined Thistle as Lead Training Consultant in 2012 and has been pivotal in embedding a person-centred approach. He has co-created, led and facilitated Thistle’s highly participative and successful learning programmes, influencing practice not only within Thistle but across Scotland and internationally.

In 2005, Steve co-authored ‘The Big Plan – a good life after school’ and contributed to the Jessica Kingsley publication ‘Co-production and social care’. He’s hoping to find time to write ‘A Wee Book About Big Plans’, the follow-up to his 2005 book.

In the first of Steve’s See Life Differently series of vlogs, Steve discusses the Thistle Approach to working with people – the approach that underpins the work that takes place across Thistle.

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  • The Big Plan Guide for Facilitators eBook

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