Residential care to prepare disabled people for independence

  • An award-winning care home is offering learning disabled people a path to independence by training them in the life skills that they need to move on.

    From the outside, Sunnyside House may look like any other small residential care home, but it bills itself as an "independence skills training academy". Its success in preparing residents with moderate to substantial learning disabilities to live independently was recognised at this year's Skills for Care Accolades, where it won the overall "winner of winners" category as well as the "most effective new approach to service delivery award".

    Managing director Andrew Azzopardi developed the My Life (Learning Independence ForEver) programme to provide residents with the skills they need for sustainable independent living, and also set up a "training flat" next door to the home to be used as the final step towards independence

    Learning life skills

    My Life has 21 modules including personal hygiene, communication skills, dealing with conflict, assertiveness, money management, travel training, and job searching. My Life group sessions are held three days a week in the home's training room and service users are assessed on their understanding and competency after completing each module before they can move on to the next one.

    On average it takes about three years for a service user to complete the whole programme, including living in the training flat on their own for up to a year.

    Assessment and review

    To decide when a service user is ready to move into the flat their key worker and manager assesses and reviews their independent living skills and My Life programme progression. A placement review is held with the service user and funding local authority, and funding then decreases in line with the lower levels of one-to-one support the service user will need.

    All placements at Sunnyside House are council funded - Thurrock Council funds the majority with the remainder coming from Essex, Barking & Dagenham, and Havering councils. But Azzopardi has found it difficult to spike the interest of some local authorities he has approached.

    Everyone is focused on not placing people in residential care homes. We constantly say we may be registered as a care home but our services are much more about supported living and independent living, but when you go before a funding panel that can be difficult.


    How the My Life programme works

    The My Life team at Sunnyside House consists of four tutors overseen by Jan Faulkner, the programme lead. The tutors come from support worker backgrounds and have the Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector qualification.

    They run three group sessions each week working on a module at a time; additionally, each key worker works on two or three modules with their service user on a one-to-one basis each week.

    Read more about the My Life programme: ... ndence.htm



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