Tuesday 13 November 2012

Holly Lodge - the Local Authority's Perspective

Kent County Council Families and Social Care is a key partner in the success of Holly Lodge. Troy Jones, Commissioning Officer, explained why the Council is so involved:

Too often, people with challenging behaviour are housed in residential services which are too large to provide individualised support, serve people too far from their families and are too restrictive to provide a good quality life in the home or as part of the local community. There have been many reasons for this but these services seldom produce good outcomes for the people living in them, so in Kent we decided it’s time to do things differently.

We spent a considerable amount of time viewing various sites. One was rejected because it was too rural and would limit people’s ability to access the community – and staff to be able to get to work.  Another was too small and would not provide enough outdoor space and another would have necessitated more than one storey. The Holly Lodge site wasn’t ideal but did address many of the issues which ruled out other sites. It was already owned by mcch and ear-marked for sale or redevelopment as the existing property was unfit for use, so this also proved to be an advantage.

Three of the people that will be living at Holly Lodge are moving from services that are no longer fit for purpose or are unable to meet their needs. The nature of their behaviour means that they are very hard on their environment and the housing they are currently living in has become damaged beyond repair. The new flats are being built to a high specification using robust materials in order to make them more sustainable. The two other tenants are currently in expensive out of county placements, moved there because a suitable service wasn’t available in Kent. Having lived hundreds of miles from their families, they will now be able to rebuild these relationships that are so important to anyone, but especially to people who are so vulnerable.

Support provision on the site will be shared between mcch and Avenues Group. Supporting people with challenging behaviour requires a dedicated and flexible staff team that has good management and supervisory support. We want to ensure that these people are able to benefit from a more mainstream and personalised support approach whilst minimising some of the usual issues which result in service failure such as staff burnout. By sharing the expertise and management from two organisations, working closely with multi-disciplinary community teams, the Holly Lodge Project aims to ensure that staff receive better support and supervision so that rather than doing things for service users, they will have the confidence to enable the people they support to do things for themselves whenever possible. Shared support also provides an additional safeguard as two independent organisations have daily oversight of the service.

Some of the individuals living at Holly Lodge will need this specialist environment for a long time, however it is anticipated that some will respond to this new approach well enough that they will be able to consider moving to more mainstream housing, making space available for new tenants. In addition, Holly Lodge will become a hub of experienced staff able to provide outreach services. This will be a valuable resource to provide short term support to service users living in their own homes or with family carers in order to manage or prevent a crisis.

The goal of the Holly Lodge Project is to increase the independence of the people living there. Assistive technology will give them control over their environment and the opportunity to safely spend time on their own for short periods, if they wish. Research shows that giving people with learning disabilities more control and more personalised support will result in improvements in their behaviour as well as quality of life. This has been the impetus behind the planning for this project and has heavily influenced design of the buildings and the support packages.

Although it is a small scheme, this project is a fine example of how local innovation and working in partnership to do services differently can help make the lives of disabled people better.

Artist's impression of Holly Lodge