Supported living leads to greater independence, finds major research project
Published by lpriest for Progress Housing Group in Housing and also in Education, Health
Managing Director of Progress Care Housing Association, Alan Johnson and Housing Services Manager for Progress Care Housing Association with members of the research team
National supported housing provider, Progress Care Housing Association,LeedsMetropolitanUniversityand Leeds City Council launched the findings of a major research project to assess whether supported housing within communities gives greater independence to people with learning disabilities and mental health needs.
The ‘Include Me In’ project, which took place over a three year period, undertook research on the impact of moving residents from large hostels (housing up to 315 residents) into smaller, supported living accommodation in communities acrossLeeds. The research assessed the impact of the move on the residents’ independence, integration into their local community, their support needs, and their social opportunities.
The research project, which received grant funding of almost £500,000 from the National Lottery’s Big Lottery Fund, involved the move of over 300 people from 13 mental health or learning disability hostels into new supported independent living accommodation throughoutLeeds, between 2009 and 2011. The purpose-built homes were provided by the LiLAC consortium and are managed by Progress Care Housing Association, which is a member of Progress Housing Group.
Using in depth interviews and focus groups the research team, which consisted of a professional research team and a team of eight co-researchers (six residents and two carers), explored the views and experiences of three main groups:
- Residents – the people who moved from mental health or learning disability hostels into new supported living accommodation or mainstream housing.
- Family carers (relatives) of people affected by these changes.
- Staff who are involved with or affected by the changes.
The research findings highlighted that many residents had gained more independence since moving into new supported accommodation. It also found that the move resulted in some of the residents having more confidence and self esteem, improved motivation and greater social interaction. In some cases, this increased independence and confidence led to residents gaining employment in the local area. There was a high level of satisfaction expressed by the majority of tenants with their new homes. Residents like the increased privacy they have in their new homes.
The move also led to an increased use of local services, such as public transport, leisure facilities and pharmacies, by some residents. However, some residents have felt more isolated since the move and felt that they need more support in their new home.
67 members of staff were interviewed and involved in focus groups during the project. Following the move, some support staff are now working with residents in a more empowering and person-centred way. The research identified that some staff were having difficulty adjusting to their new role of ‘supporting’ not ‘doing’. Some felt there was insufficient time to support tenants in activities in the community and it was suggested that volunteers, such as ‘befrienders’, could have a valuable role in terms of encouraging engagement in social activities. Several support staff and family carers raised concerns about tenants’ diet and nutrition following the move.
The evaluation has been supported by a series of Action Learning Set workshops, providing an opportunity for sharing the interim findings with support staff who have considered issues emerging from the study and how these can be addressed. A set of detailed recommendations will be included in the final report.
Alan Johnson, Managing Director of Progress Care Housing Association, said: “We are delighted to be sharing the findings of the ‘Include Me In’ research project. It is a great achievement for all those involved and will hopefully lead to an improved way of life for many people living with learning or mental health disabilities.”
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive member with responsibility for adult social care said: "This joint research project between ourselves, Leeds Met and Progress Care Housing Association is a fantastic example of successful partnership working. It has provided improved quality of life for adults with a learning disability, enabling them to live independently.
“The project was delivered on time and to budget, and the outcomes will now be used to inform our future work practices to help provide the best possible support to people with mental health issues or a learning disability."
Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the Big Lottery Fund, said: “These findings from Progress Care Housing’s innovative research will underpin efforts to build more independent futures for people with learning disabilities and mental health issues. BIG’s Research programme is enabling voluntary and community organisations to produce and distribute evidence-based knowledge, to help shape thinking around policy and develop better services for beneficiaries in the future.”
The role of service users and family carers as co-researchers was integral to the success of the ‘Include Me In’ project. Working alongside the professional researchers, the co-researchers were involved in all stages of the research, including design, data collection, analysis and dissemination. The co-researchers were involved for the duration of the project, which enabled them to develop new skills, gain confidence and interact with other service users. The unique partnership formed by the co-researchers and professional research team led to two co-researchers presenting to delegates at the First European Social Work Research Conference held at Oxford University and to a research seminar at the University of Bradford on their approach to this project. Co-researchers Paul Williams and Phil Lomax talked about their role in the research project and about how it has benefitted them personally, such as making new friends and learning new skills.
The research was a partnership project between Progress Care Housing Association, LeedsMetropolitanUniversityand Leeds City Council's Adult Social Care Directorate. The full research findings are available at www.progressgroup.org.uk/include-me-in