Gemma (not her real name) has a moderate learning disability, autism and bipolar disorder. She experienced a very difficult past resulting in serious mental illness, behavioural issues and a lengthy stay in hospital ended in 2018 when she moved into a house in the community with her team of support staff.
The house and the neighbourhood were not conducive to a settled life for Gemma or for her neighbours. Her behaviour caused very serious issues for her, her staff team and her neighbours, requiring input from a number of multi-disciplinary professionals and frequent police involvement. Gemma’s needs are very complex and her surroundings are very central to her wellbeing. Clearly, she desperately needed a different home as her first tenancy was not working.
A referral for housing was put in to Care Housing Association and we worked together with NHS England and alongside people who knew Gemma well to adapt a property, tailor it to her needs and the needs of her staff team who were struggling considerably. Staff felt in danger of burnout, particularly due to the amount of noise that Gemma created around the clock.
Gemma moved into the new house in April 2021. Its location was hand-picked to enable her to still be within the community but in a position where her behaviour and the noise she created didn’t impact on neighbours or negatively for her in relation to her community profile. The house was designed to be autism friendly, with her individual needs considered and catered for. This included substantial soundproofing, a low stimulus environment and careful layout of rooms built into the design to keep noise away from neighbours. Staff safety and comfort were also some of the primary considerations in the design of the property.
She is already much happier, interacting with the community in a much more positive way and there is a substantial reduction in the number and intensity of incidents for her. As a result, there is far less multi-disciplinary professional and police involvement, and therefore less demand on public resources.
Staff don’t feel in danger of burnout anymore. They can support Gemma far more positively and feel she is moving forwards much more happily with her life. They are much more hopeful of a better future for Gemma.