Community participation and well-being

Activities for service users with learning disabilities and acquired brain injuries

With Spring in the air, we are looking forward to longer days and better weather. However, even in the winter, we have a varied range of activities for our service users. Community participation and presence are two of the key principles that underpin our organisation. We take positive steps to enable service users to integrate into the local community and build culturally-valued relationships, and we do this in a number of ways.

Our care home at 23 Duston Road, Northampton, accommodates ten adults with learning disabilities, acquired brain injuries or a dual diagnosis. In addition, service users have complex needs and may present with behaviour that challenges. Here is a brief list of some of the activities that they did, supported by their care workers, in January and February this year.

  • Walk into the village centre, visit local shops
  • Drive out and walk around garden centre
  • Visit local park, café and mini zoo
  • Singing in the music room, karaoke at Care with a Difference
  • In-house board games and movies
  • Trip to the cinema
  • Trampolining, swimming, working out at the gym
  • Ten-pin bowling, short-mat bowling
  • Card making at Headway
  • Dancing at the Rock Club disco
  • Shopping for clothes and toiletries
  • Visiting the library, visiting the museum
  • Meals out, pub lunches
  • Supported visit to see family in London

Many of these activities anyone would do at a weekend or part of their daily life: they are not particularly unusual. However, for someone who has previously been living in a hospital or institutional setting, they are a big step forward in their quality of life and an important part of their care plan.

For someone with learning disabilities and complex needs, managing their anxiety sufficiently for them go on a shopping trip and enjoy other people’s company has a very positive impact on their well-being. And for someone with an acquired brain injury, just being able to do some of the things that they did before their injury can be an important step. It is part of our focus on ‘normalisation’, enabling our service users to live as close to a normal life as possible and to improve their emotional well-being.

In addition, these activities benefit service users in several different ways:

  • Physical activity improves fitness as well as having a positive impact on mental health
  • Decision making – we respect each person’s individuality and support them in making their own choices
  • Skills development – craft activities improve dexterity and creativity, while developing skills in any area increases confidence
  • Reducing anxiety – gradually increasing the range of activities an individual undertakes, while helping them to develop their own awareness and coping strategies, reduces anxiety and improves their quality of life.

For more information about how our services improve the lives of service users with learning disabilities, acquired brain injuries and complex needs, see our case studies

Residential care in the heart of the community

There is much debate on whether community-based support is better than ‘institutional care’ but of course, it depends on the individual. It also depends on the type of care and support. One of the best ways to describe our specialist residential care homes is ‘a place that feels like home’. Yes, we deliver effective intensive short-term rehabilitation and long-term rehabilitation for adults with acquired brain injury. We also provide care and support for adults with learning difficulties and behaviour that challenges. And we have a high support worker to service user ratio, but we strive to provide an environment that feels like a home, not an institution. It’s safe, comfortable and homely. Our homes provide companionship, and protect vulnerable people from social isolation, loneliness and hate crime.

Community engagement
We also enable service users to be part of the local community. All of our care homes in Northampton are situated close to local shops and facilities, as well as within easy access to the town centre. For service users who are able to, popping out to the local shops means that they feel part of the local community and ‘normal’, especially when they see people they know. It’s also part of our focus on ‘normalisation’ for service users with an acquired brain injury. Enabling them to live as close to a normal life as possible is an important part of their rehabilitation.

We are fortunate that we have some great local pubs where the staff understand the needs of our service users and are very welcoming and helpful. In December we held a 60th birthday party for a service user at the local pub. Donald enjoyed a lovely meal with his sister, all his fellow service users from his home and members of staff. He’s been living in our care home for over 20 years and it was a really lovely occasion. And the pub staff even sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him!

Donald's birthday cakeCompany ethos
As well as everyday trips to the shops and special occasions, there are also trips to the cinema, sports centres and cafés. They help every service user to become familiar with their local environment and make them feel at home. It’s all part of the ethos of The Richardson Partnership for Care, ensuring that service users are treated with dignity and respect, actively supported to make their own choices and given the opportunity to participate in community activities.

Donald and his sister

Donald with his sister at his birthday party