A look back at 35 years of Oakfield Court.
07 July 2021
We met up with the tenants and staff from the supported living scheme, to reflect on the service 35 years after it first opened its doors.
The service comprises of 13 bungalows, with ten out of the 14 tenants having lived on-site for over 30 years. The team provide background support, which can include support with their tenancy, bills, correspondence and health. The team also provide emotional support for the tenants.
Vanessa describes the changes that people have been through over the years. “People would ask “can I do this?”, and we have had to actively encourage people to take control over their lives. We often use advocates to support people. We encourage them to go on holiday, socialise, redecorate their homes and generally support people to live ordinary lives, within their community.”
The purpose-built supported living service opened in 1986, and since then there have been a number of improvements including tenants’ growing confidence and independence. Reflecting on the success and stability of the service. Vanessa explains
“It was the first model of its kind in the whole of the UK. The first thing we focus on is safety. We give people a safe environment to live in and this will enable them to thrive. Some of the people we support have moved from neighbourhoods that were less supportive and they were experiencing prejudice. The presence of background support means people can live their lives independently, sometimes with minimal input from the team, but they have that safety net should they need it.”
A new tenant said
“I like to talk to the other people, you always have someone here to chat with. I like it here, I feel safe here.”
“My sister helped me find this place. I did not really like it at my old home. I like having jobs to do around here, I feel like I’m helping out.”
During the course of the past 35 years the team has continued to support people to maintain their independence. Vanessa explains “We do a lot of cross-agency working, we know other providers and support services and can help people navigate these. We encourage people to take responsibility for their lives, whether that be matters of their own health or finances etc. We work to instil confidence, so that people can do this.”
Sally who has lived at the service for 35 years said “It was a bit strange to start with, I moved from my parents house. When I moved in my place had an old brown carpet and brown curtains. It was horrible and I had to change it. It’s nice knowing that staff are around if I need it.”
Chris who has also lived at the service for 35 years explains “I wanted my independence. I had done youth training and wanted my own place. It’s great here. Vanessa is fantastic she helped me to sort my benefits and helped with the paperwork. She also helped me to get support from a care service. I am having my flat redecorated and will be staying at a hotel”.
The anniversary of the service is not the only significant date linked to the site. Jackie and Steve explain their experience. “We moved in on our wedding day, the 7 June. I was living in London with my parents and Steve had just moved from up North, from college.”
Moving in was not straight forward for Jackie, though, “I did not realise it had steps at first. I had to practice doing steps every day to prove that I could go up and down, to move in. I lived here for a year before ramps were put in.”
When asked what it was like when they first moved in, they explain
“We were excited, but it was a bit scary. The first meal we cooked was curry on toast. The staff listen to us, you can do what you want, they listen to you and don’t tell you, you have to do this or that.”
“As we got a bit older the staff helped to get a care provide for us. I have control over my care package.”
Vanessa concludes “This model might be 35 years old, but it works. We can expand and shrink support in a responsive way, through personal budgets, which is cost effective, and it gives people greater control and choice. The stability and longevity of people’s lives here speaks for itself. There is no doubt that this community will be here indefinitely.”
During the pandemic or workforce has been stretched and challenged unlike ever before. The physical and emotional toll on staff became a priority issue for us as employers.