Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Report: Finding adequate housing a barrier to independent living for British young people with disabilities

From 24dash in the UK:

The housing requirements of young people with learning disabilities are often overlooked or missed off care assessments altogether, despite the commitment to the personalisation agenda, according to new research published Oct. 28.

Dimensions, a leading provider of support for people with learning disabilities, is now calling on providers and local authorities to ensure that staff are adequately informed about assessments, benefits, and dealing with multi-agencies to help young people and families through the transition process, with a focus on independent living.

The study, called 'A Home of My Own', carried out in association with ibk Initiatives, was compiled using information from interviews with young people between the ages of 18 and 30, along with their families and support staff, about their experiences relating to the transition from the family home into their own accommodation.

Dimensions hopes its findings will provide practical help and advice for young people and their families on planning independent living, as well as recommendations for care providers and local authorities.

The research, unveiled Oct. 28 at the Learning Disability Today Exhibition in London, found the key to achieving successful independent living is to plan early.

Thinking ahead to get housing considerations through the community care assessment gate is essential and families should push for this at the transition
planning review in year nine, when students are 13 years-old.

The research findings also highlight that the same bodies that promote independent living for young people with learning disabilities are often the ones that make it impossible for this process to run smoothly.

The work and benefits trap is just one example of this highlighted in the study. Young people may find they are worse off in employment than living on benefits, which caps their ability to engage in meaningful activity and often makes it more difficult for them to move out of home and live independently.

On the back of the study, Dimensions is calling for all those involved in the transition process to ensure housing considerations are central to care assessments. Schools should include person-centred planning as early as possible.

The organisation says care providers and local authorities must make sure their employees have adequate training and the right information so housing needs, both current and for the future, are reviewed regularly and as early as possible. Families too, must engage in triggering the assessment process for their child as early as possible.

The research also noted a marked difference in those young people who were supported by younger support staff or peers. Dimensions is therefore also calling on providers to be creative and relationship focused, to work to encourage younger people to enter the caring profession, and to support families who are often struggling to cope.

Transitions Development Manager at Dimensions, Kate Jackson, said: "It is important to understand the difference between a 'house' and a 'home' - a distinction that all the young people we interviewed made.

"Finding a 'home' takes into account our families, friends, and interests. Yet our research demonstrates that professionals often assume that a house without these considerations is sufficient for a young person with a learning disability.

"Getting a house is not the starting point in achieving independent living. Getting the right kind of support established first is the most important thing. Mistakenly, getting a house often becomes the final measure of success."

Twenty-one year-old Hannah from Norwich was one of the young people to take part in the research.When Hannah left college she wanted more independence and a place of her own. She moved into a rented house with her best friend Stephanie from college and started looking for staff to support her in her new home.

Hannah said: "I was looking for a support worker my age who liked TV soaps, and knew how to use hair straighteners."

Hannah's mum, Sarah said: "Hannah found the support that she wanted through Dimensions. Her course at Norwich City College keeps her busy and she's learning to look after her own money, cook dinner and do her own washing.

"I've been amazed at Hannah's growing confidence since she left home, particularly in expressing herself and saying how she's feeling. Most importantly, I'm no longer Hannah's carer, I'm her mum again."

Dimensions' Chief Executive, David Wolverson said: "The aspirations of young people with learning disabilities are the same as their peers. They want the opportunity to strive for ordinary happy lives, build meaningful relationships and to do the things they enjoy.

"Rather than being the end product, moving into their own home is a crucial stage in helping young people with learning disabilities enjoy increased independence and live the lives they want."