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January 2011



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Building Support


Mike MacCallam reports on a new supported living project, where the wishes and needs of young adults on the autism spectrum have been included at each step of the way.

“What are you going to do for our sons and daughters when they leave school, and need ongoing support into their adult lives?” This was the question posed directly by a group of parents to bath and North East Somerset Council, the commissioning authority of services for adults with learning difficulties, including those with an ASD in this area. Good question. Up to that point, many young people with an ASD were continuing to be ‘placed’ in registered care homes, often some distance away, and often with providers who were not specifically set up to support autistic people.

We have recognised the importance of planning ahead to meet future needs and, like many areas, have made a commitment to developing a range of local services. We want to offer people real choices about the way they are supported to live their lives as they move into adulthood, regardless of their level of learning disability, and to enable individuals to live as independently as possible. We know through our work that we have an increasing number of young adults with an ASD coming through each year, many of whom will need residential support in the future.

Three years ago, we took the decision to stop placing people away from the area and, instead, to start working in a unique partnership with families, together with our colleagues in local schools and children’s services, to plan and commission a new service that supports young adults with an ASD to live in their own homes, within their local community. The initial stages involved building confidence with the parents concerned that a supported living model, rather than a traditional registered care placement, can and will work. We worked with the Housing Options consultancy to go through this fully with the families concerned. We then ensured that the families were fully involved in the selection of the housing and support providers, through consultation over the tendering process and representation at the selection panels. The NAS was selected as ‘support provider’ and became a key partner from this point on. We have completed person-centred plans (PCPs) with each person, and ensured that the support plans are based on the outcomes from the PCP process. In addition, each person and their family has had a significant input into the design of his or her home, which has been specifically designed to meet the needs of autistic people, and reflect individual needs and wishes.

This project has been about a new and unique collaboration between the local authority, the education service and a group of individuals and their families, coming together as equals and working to the same agenda. We recognise that this is not just about this one project, but are signed up to continuing to develop similar models of support for future young autistic adults. As such, we have now begun planning with a second ‘cohort’ of families whose children will need a similar service.

In July, eight young adults, all under-25, moved into their own homes, each with their own individual support plan, to begin the next stage of their life journey. I feel privileged to have been invited to share in that with them in some small way.

Mike MacCallum is the Joint Commissioning Manager at the Integrated Learning Difficulties Service, Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Housing Options is a housing advisory service for people with learning disabilities, their families and their supporters.

Visit www.housingoptions.org.uk

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