For any service to be effective, it has to understand what people actually need. Beyond that, it’s crucial to understand what we can do to make the biggest difference for people. What do people see as adding value to their experience, and what do they see as not important? If we can understand these things, we can shape services so that every improvement we make is one that will be highly valued. In order to get this insight, we need great ways of listening to our service users.
Service User Participation Strategy
Conwy Learning Disability Services have always attempted to gain the views of the service user to inform our commissioning processes. We have used different methods to engage service users including feedback questionnaires, service user and carer membership of the LD Management and Policy group, links with the Conwy service user group ‘Connect Forum’ (reps sit on the LD MAP) and we have commissioned advocacy organisations and Conwy Connect for Learning Disabilities to facilitate regular sessions with services users.
In 2012 we completed an extensive consultation process to gather the views of people with a learning disability to help inform our commissioning decisions. The report was entitled – Shaping the Future. This consultation identified areas for improvement. It was recognised that feedback received was often provided by the same service users and there were groups of people where engagement was still difficult for example people with profound learning disabilities. We therefore wanted to develop a participation strategy which would ensure that the views of the majority were truly represented in our planning and commissioning process. The title of the participation strategy was chosen by services users – ‘Making things Better’.
Conwy Connect has an excellent record in facilitating consultations on behalf of Conwy. Their person centred approach was effective in optimising the opportunities of those who are difficult to reach. Collaborative work with Flintshire had informed some of our thinking about processes required for engaging more people. The model produced in ‘Making things Better’ is dependent on all service providers setting up Person Centred service users groups to discuss with them what works well and what does not work well within their services and the wider community e.g. universal services. Representatives from those groups feed into the Connect Forum, themes are developed which can be escalated to the Learning Disability Priority Group (replacing the LD MAP) for action.
Conwy Connect has been commissioned to implement the LD Participation Strategy – Making things Better. In partnership with Conwy the strategy has been launched with service providers. It has been received with great enthusiasm and commitment. Our contracts with providers will specify adherence to the strategy as a service requirement.
We have identified providers who were already consulting service users on a regular basis in order to learn from their good practice. Conwy Connect have visited groups and developed a tool kit and a training program to support other providers who were less experienced in consulting service users in a person centred way. Conwy Connect have mapped existing service user groups and have initiated discussions with providers about implementing the strategy in their service.
We have consulted with existing involved service users throughout the process and they have shown real enthusiasm for what the service is attempting to do. We have regular membership at the Connect Forum but we continue to work on developing the links with smaller service user groups.
The full impact of implementing this Strategy is not yet measurable, as the project is still in its infancy. However the success of the work has now influenced the department and the corporate approach to Service User Participation and to influence work on a regional basis.
Development of Extra care accommodation in partnership with Pennaf
Within the learning disability team there is an ongoing need to support people to lead independent lives in their own homes, this is called Supported Living. In Conwy there are a number of ways this is achieved, through Residential care, Adult placements, Approved Landlords schemes etc but this report is about Supported Living.
In Conwy there are currently 45 Supported Living schemes that provide a home to 101 adults who have learning disabilities. These houses are located throughout Conwy in a variety of residential areas. Typically each house provides a home to on average 3 people, each with their own bedroom, shared communal areas and who are tenants.
This has worked well for many years but there is a need to continually review what is done and how it is done and make changes that reflect the changing needs of adults with learning disability. The learning disability extra care scheme will be the next Supported Living scheme for Conwy. It is currently in development and will result in 7 new Supported Living spaces through the creation of 7 self-contained flats and will be located in Colwyn Bay
The need for this comes from the continuous review of accommodation options that exist in Conwy for people with a learning disability.
There is also a need to acknowledge the changing face of learning disability for example:
- Statistically – In a 2008 study Completed by CeDR (Centre for Disability Research) and commissioned by Mencap it is estimated that there will be a 14% increase in the numbers of people with a disability in the two decades from 2001 – 2021.
- Wishes of people with learning disability and their families – It is nowadays more likely that adults with a learning disability will want to or need to move on from the family home.
- Experience in Conwy – Whilst the existing models of shared Supported Living has worked well whenever there is a vacancy there can be compatibility issues in filling that vacancy. The learning disability extra care scheme will eliminate this.
There is a need to create a range of accommodation options that will support individuals to progress towards greater independence. This model supports this progression whilst also reducing the need for people to move on from the actual accommodation.
There are a number of drivers:
- The Learning disability community and their families locally. The Shaping the Future consultation that took place over a number of months in 2012, identified this type of supported housing as an outcome.
- Learning Disability Strategies like Fulfilling the Promises and Valuing People
- The Alder Report, the progression model and regional workshop focussed on accommodation and support options.
- Conwy’s corporate strategies:
- The Corporate Plan 2012 – 2017
- One Conwy – working towards a better future 2012 -2025
Since last year a site for the scheme has been agreed.
Plans for the flats have been drawn up.
This scheme has been a long time in the planning; this has enabled the learning disability team to undertake research in to best practice by looking at housing solutions elsewhere.
Consideration of the long term future and flexibility of this scheme has also been a feature, for example it will be possible if the communal space is not used as anticipated to covert this at minimal cost to provide a 8th flat.
The site for the scheme has been achieved by working collaboratively with a number of parties, mainly, Conwy’s Estates Department, Conwy’s Housing Strategy Department and Pennaf the Housing association.
Research has been undertaken by visiting extra care housing schemes in Conwy, Anglesey and other supported housing schemes in other areas
What difference has it made?
It is perhaps more accurate to talk about the differences it will make. Chief among these will be the provision of high quality, secure accommodation. The importance of this for people who are learning disabled and often disadvantaged in housing markets cannot not be overemphasised.
It is not possible at this stage to be very specific there will be 7 very different case studies in 2015 when everyone has moved in. The following examples may give a flavour of the differences that are being anticipated:
For one person with profound physical disabilities who is currently supported 1:1 at all times it will not only provide a secure home but will also enable them to experience an element of true independence. Through the clever use of assistive technology and IT they will be able to control aspects of their home environment. This person will find that they can enjoy some periods of time in their own home alone for the first time, something that many non-disabled people would take for granted.
For another person it will enable them to move on from a situation where they share their home and really want to have their own place.
The human story is something that has to be anticipated too. The hope is that all seven people who go to live in the scheme learn new skills, increase their independence in so far as each of them is able. The outcome wished for each of them is that they relish the freedom of truly having their own home and that as a result of this they flourish as Conwy citizens.
Green Horizons are driven by Government initiatives for Local Authorities to become Greener. The project forms part of a wider ethos which is to provide work and social skills to adults with a learning disability within Conwy. In the past the project (known then as Horizons) focussed primarily on working in the community by selling used goods such as clothes and bric a brac at Canolfan yr Orsedd. The project then grew and joined forces with the Environment Team in Mochdre to form Green Horizons, which focussed on recycling the Council Offices’ waste including tin, glass, paper and food waste. Over the past 4 years this has grown from strength to strength and has seen both departments working collaboratively together to gain success. The project was a finalist in the APSE awards in 2011 (UK wide) and were in the final 8 contenders to win. Although they did not take the prize this shows what we can do in partnership to reach corporate targets!
The project is responsible for recycling many tons of waste for the authority, and have become a major factor in Conwy’s success in gaining certification at Level 5 for Green Dragon. The project team work hard by collecting waste each week and weigh each site’s recycling.
Not only does the project achieve all this it also supports adults with learning disabilities with their own personal goals. Individuals learn skills in recycling and work closely with others to form a strong team. The project teaches values such as reaching goals, partnership working, being a part of the community and making friends. They have a project van, a base to work from, their own uniform and have become known as an excellent team in Conwy Council.
One service user has come on in leaps and bounds since working with Green Horizons; he is very shy and quiet however this project has helped him to become more confident and out-going. He enjoys the interaction with others, his work colleagues and staff around the council and developing his life and work skills.
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