I’m sure you’ve heard many a housing organisation talk of the ‘home’ being about so much more than bricks and mortar. It’s a drum we bang regularly but with good reason.
Supported housing can significantly influence and enable independence, health and wellbeing. And that influence is driven not just by the support packages delivered, but through the layout and design of the accommodation, smart technology used in the home, the day to day responsibilities of being a tenant and the opportunities for social interactions within the home and community.
And home is the key word here if we are to support the Transforming Care programme that aims to bring much needed support to the individual, rather than the individual having to leave their established social networks and community to access care elsewhere.
We need to carefully consider the design and layout of buildings to ensure that, not only do they function well as safe and comfortable homes, but also to ensure that they promote independence. For example, are there communal spaces for socialising? Do residents have their own private spaces that they can call their own by choosing the décor and arranging the furniture? And we also need to consider where the home is situated – is it close to shops and facilities and part of the wider community?
When we asked residents at Kingston House, one of our CQC services, what it was that made their house a home the overwhelming response was themed around choice and independence.
All residents particularly enjoy the social opportunities that they have within and beyond the service – where they have volunteered with local businesses and community groups playing an active and valuable role in society. But in the home we can work around the clock to encourage residents to want to engage with these opportunities in the first place – as this can sometimes be one of the biggest challenges we face.
There are many brilliant examples across housing that are delivering that change. One service I know that works with customers with complex needs influences positive behaviour through music – and the key thing here is that the music is chosen by the individual. It’s their preference. Playing their chosen music to relax at bedtime, and music to encourage energy in the morning influences positive behaviour that allows the individual to engage more proactively with the opportunities on offer to them. Lighting and temperature also play a role here as we know that sensory overload, particularly for people with autism, can cause distress and influence their behaviours. So having this level of understanding in the home environment can really set people up for a productive, interactive and purposeful day.
There is a great organisation called Camerados that strongly believes that in order to get through tough times we need two key things – friends and purpose. And that comes back to what makes a healthy home environment:
Friends – the community we live in, our housemates, neighbours, family, friends and support workers. According to Mencap, the friendships that adults with learning disabilities have are often characterised by relationships with people they live with and support staff. 41% do not have more than yearly contact with family members they don’t live with.
Purpose – the role we play in society, be it as a responsible tenant, an active community volunteer, an employee or a student with a thirst for knowledge and new experiences. Mencap’s research pages also report that only 17% of adults with a learning disability are in paid work. This could be due to many factors but whilst this is our reality, we have a role to play in seeking out other ways in which individuals can find purpose.
The home can create many opportunities for friends and purpose if it is designed in the right way with the right kind of support packages in place.
The home must be safe, but it must also allow people to reach their potential, to flourish. I’ll finish on something that one of our support workers, Gail once told us about the progress her client, Sarah, was making. I think this perfectly summarises the point I am trying to make. Gail said:
“I’ll never forget one thing Sarah said to me when we first met and that was that she wanted to be a butterfly. She wanted to come out of her shell and be the person she always wanted to be. To remove the limitations. Just because she has a disability, it doesn’t mean that her dreams shouldn’t come true.”