New service already making a positive difference

AFG’s new supported independent living service within the community at Retford Road, Kirkby, has got off to a positive start – thanks to careful planning and highly skilled staff able to deal with the complex physical and mental health needs of its residents.

The service is providing support to a group of people who have limited experiences of community support services having come from family homes or long stay residential placements. Everyone has had an occupational therapy assessment with each bungalow adapted to suit their needs.

Before opening to residents, the Retford Road team invited neighbours to a joint open and recruitment day giving them the opportunity to ask any questions or address concerns.

“It was well worth doing at the start. Now the neighbours are positively looking out for our service users,” according to Team Leader Carol Smith.

The service, commissioned by Knowsley Brough Council, will accommodate four people – two men and two women. They are amongst the most challenging of service users.

After just two weeks in her new bungalow Gail, who is wheelchair bound, is showing progress. Previously institutionalised in hospital for more than two years following drug and alcohol issues, and recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Gail was under-weight but has now significantly gained weight. She is also building links with the community through a local social club.

Carol said: “Gail’s health is back on track and she is working towards being reunited with her children. She’s signed a tenancy agreement and is making progress step by step. It’s all about us helping Gail to build trust again in people. That’s one of the key skills of the staff here.”

David (not his real name), who has full capacity but has physical limitations and suffers from anxiety, was the first resident to move into Retford Road.

He used to live with his family but wanted his own independence including being able to have friends back to his flat. David likes to have time on his own but also enjoys attending a local day centre where he has a good group of friends. Previously, he spent 18 months in an assessment centre. Encouragingly, the day David moved into his new accommodation he told staff: “I’m home.”

Team Leader Michelle Dooley said: “What’s important for David is that his voice is heard. He gets anxious if it isn’t. He’s now got increasing independence but has assistive technology to hand so he can press an emergency button if he needs assistance from next door.

“David is furnishing his flat how he wants it with a new settee and his TV on the wall. He likes to write newsletters on his computer which he regards as his work and would like to write a newsletter about Retford Road which we’re keen to encourage. Our challenge now is how we facilitate him getting out more into the community because he enjoys a pint!”

Carol adds: “Bringing a project like this together is quite a logistical challenge even before your service users arrive including the building work and assessment of potential residents. The secret of our success is a dedicated multi-faceted team and getting to know our residents well by really listening to them. There will be further challenges ahead but we’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far for our service users in making a positive difference to their lives.”

AFG is looking forward to replicating these successes with two further individuals who have been identified and assessed for this project. They are anticipated to move into their new home in early 2019.

AFG Integrated Pathway Co-Ordinator David Edgar Kane, who is leading the project, said:

“This project has been successfully brought on line due to the close partnership work between AFG, housing, health services, commissioning and social work teams. Michelle and the support team have worked extremely well to settle the two individuals into their new homes and already made great strides in making meaningful connections with their community, building relationships with neighbours, attending local community social groups and exploring their local area.”