by Carly Morrissey, Area Manager
This week is National Safeguarding Week in Wales which has got me thinking about how we make safeguarding personal in Wrexham and how we have made a real difference to someone’s life. It is always a journey of working with the person, learning, adapting, understanding what is right for someone’s support, and how can we make that happen so they are able to lead a gloriously ordinary life.
A first home
Toni was living at home with mum before moving into a shared supported living house with another young person, Bethany, with support provided by MacIntyre. Initially this move went well and Toni settled into her new life with staff getting to know Toni and how she wanted to be supported.
Toni’s autism means that she sees the world in her way and we needed to step into her world to make sure we were also really seeing what that world needed to be like for her.
Some difficulties emerge
After a few months, differences between the two people living together were evident and incompatibilities in both of their needs emerged. This was then magnified by lock-down hitting. Their outside worlds shrank and they spent much more time together in the house. Concerns were raised by the staff team that the relationship between Toni and Bethany was becoming unhealthy and they were struggling to live in the same environment together.
The staff team worked hard and put in many interventions to ensure both people had the right person-led support and input from MacIntyre's Positive Behavioural Support Lead.
Raising safeguarding concerns
Despite these best efforts the relationships continued to be strained and we had to raise concerns to the local authority that we could no longer keep Bethany or Toni safe from harm or emotional distress. This led to multiple multi-disciplinary safeguarding meetings which involved the local authority teams and CIW to look for a solution so that both Toni and Bethany could live in a safe place they could call home.
Initially, social workers looked at additional hours and how more staffing could help the situation, meaning there were always two staff on shift, we were able to use additional strategies, and staff had support from their colleagues.
Papering over the cracks
We talked to Bethany and Toni about what they wanted and how they wanted to live and it was clear they did not want to live together anymore and that extra staffing was only papering over the cracks. The best thing for both of them was to look at different accommodation and an environment that could meet their needs.
Searching for alternatives
So the search and work widened. With the local authority’s knowledge of the area and available housing came some alternative solutions that we as a provider felt we could make work for both Toni and Bethany.
We involved the families of both people to ensure all views were considered and it wasn’t just MacIntyre making these decisions.
The first move
The first change came when Bethany moved into a bungalow which she has made her forever home, filled with all the things she loves. She shares this bungalow with one other person and it works perfectly for them both as they have their own living space and are very respectful of each other and how they each want to live. Bethany is happy and living exactly how she wanted to.
This left Toni living in a large house on her own. Although the risks had somewhat reduced by Toni no longer living with Bethany, it still wasn’t the best solution for Toni’s mental health or wellbeing. The house was on the outskirts of Wrexham with minimal public transport links which meant Toni was becoming increasingly isolated and the staff team around her struggling to support her in the best way. Toni lost motivation to get showered and dressed and would spend her days in her pyjamas, She struggled to sleep and was becoming very anxious with living where she was. Her obsessional behaviour increased significantly so she was finding every day a struggle.
A perfect environment
The solution came In an existing supported living property. The environment was made up of five individual bungalows with an additional staff area. MacIntyre and the local authority team made a proposal to the housing association that adaptations could be made to the staff area to create a sixth bungalow that we felt could meet Toni’s needs perfectly. This new bungalow meant Toni would have all her own space and she would not need to share it with anyone, it was also the perfect size, so Toni wouldn’t become overwhelmed with too many rooms. She would have her own staff member but the staff would also have support from staff working in the other bungalows if they needed it. Toni would also have other people around her that she could develop relationships with on her own terms.
With some convincing, mainly by our local commissioner, the housing association agreed to fund the adaptations and set to work creating a space for Toni to call home. Toni chose how to decorate her bungalow: mess and clutter upset her so she chose everything very plain but perfect for her.
Toni's gloriously ordinary life
In December 2021, Toni finally moved into her new bungalow and the changes it has made to her life are simply amazing. Those two years seem to have flown but wow, what Toni has achieved is absolutely fantastic. Her anxiety has been reduced dramatically, she is now sleeping soundly every night, her medication reduced and getting showered and dressed every day. She is choosing to go out to many different places and experience new things.
Toni now has her own mobility vehicle meaning her world has become even more accessible and she is enjoying the freedom of discovery and motivation this is bringing. For the first time, Toni went and fed the ducks, something she has never done before. Seeing the video of this literally brought tears to my eyes, as she looks so happy.
Toni has made genuine friendships with the other people that live in the bungalows and they have spent many happy days in the communal garden area. On a nice warm day, you can find Toni sitting out here chatting away with her friends planning what to do and where to go. Toni has discovered many common interests, one being jigsaws and has helped one of her friends finish an impossible Percy Pig jigsaw with ease.
This is only just the start of Toni’s gloriously ordinary life, I can’t wait to see where the next few years take her.
A huge thanks to Toni’s staff team, Wrexham Local Authority & Safeguarding team, CIW and all professionals involved in making this happen. Toni’s story is proof that working together and learning together a good life can be achieved.
*some names have been changed.