St Stephen’s Road – Josh’s Story
Josh, aged 20, moved into St Stephen’s Road, a supported living service in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, two years ago. Prior to moving into the service, Josh, who has a mild learning disability and autism, had been living in a residential service for Children and Young people.
Josh had struggled with living in a shared environment and compatibility issues with other young people living at the service heightened his anxiety and triggered behaviours, which include aggression towards the support team, resulting in the placement breaking down.
St Stephen’s Road is a supported living service consisting of nine self-contained flats that provides accommodation and support for individuals with learning disabilities, autism and a range of additional needs including physical disability and behaviours that challenge.
Each individual has their own tenancy and separate support package, with a 24-hour onsite team providing personalised support tailored to the individual’s bespoke needs. The focus at St Stephen’s is on supporting people to have greater control over their lives and to lead an active, meaningful, fulfilling life as part of their local community.
During the transition phase, the support team worked closely with the team currently providing Josh with support to understand his needs and met with Josh on a number of occasions which enabled them to start to develop trust, confidence and a good rapport with him before he moved in.
At St Stephen’s, support focuses on all aspects of a person’s life and is as much or as little as they need. This includes support with health and well-being, ongoing education, skills development and accessing social, leisure and work opportunities. Individuals are also encouraged to develop and maintain a network of relationships.
When Josh moved in to his own self-contained flat at St Stephen’s he was very excited about living somewhere that he could develop greater independence. The team focussed on working with him to identify his person-centred goals and to put in place a support plan to help him achieve them. The team also worked closely with Consensus Behaviour Practitioner, Gayle Thomas, to devise and implement practical Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) strategies to support Josh to reduce his anxiety and minimise any behaviours.
Josh responded very well to having his own living space and enjoyed decorating the apartment and setting up all his belongings in his new home exactly the way he liked it.
One of Josh’s longer term goals was to live independently in the community with outreach support so the team began supporting Josh to develop the daily living skills he would need, including learning how to cook and take care of his apartment, as well as building his confidence and skills around socialising with new and different people.
Josh says, “Since living here at St Stephen’s, I have learned a lot of new skills like cooking and cleaning. I have more people skills with new staff, and I have been able to build my confidence. I am also finding it easier to control my emotions.”
The team also supported Josh with his personal development. One of Josh’s goals was to attend college and soon after moving in the support team organised for Josh to have a tutor so that he could initially be home-schooled and build up his confidence in preparation for this.
The set up worked well for Josh, who enjoyed the peace and quiet of learning one to one at home and felt better able to learn. He later went on to attend in-person lessons at college and although he later decided the course was not for him, the experience of learning and interacting socially with his peers was a positive stepping stone for Josh and it gave him confidence that he could cope well in new environments, without needing support.
During the two years that Josh has lived at St Stephen’s Road he has made significant progress. The team have continued to support Josh with developing the skills he needs to live independently, and he is now confident to access the community on his own and go to the shops to buy what he needs. He is comfortable travelling to and from the service, safe in the knowledge that he knows where he lives and can call the service for support if he needs it.
While Josh had previously been considered high risk and his behaviour very challenging when he first moved to St Stephen’s, as his confidence has grown, he has become much better at self-regulating his emotions and reducing his anxiety and behaviours. Most of his behaviours stemmed from frustration and having the right Positive Behaviour approaches in place, has supported him to express his feelings in an open and honest way and to have discussions with the team that enable him to process how he is feeling while remaining calm.
Josh has also become much more comfortable in interacting socially with new people. In November 2019, he attended Consensus’ ‘Party in the Park’ a three-day event at Golden Sands Caravan Park in Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire. Attended by over 150 supported individuals and 350 support staff, the event provided an opportunity for individuals to go on holiday, try new activities and experiences and meet and make new friends within a social and inclusive environment.
Josh coped extremely well over the course of the three days and enjoyed trying out lots of new activities such as laser quest and Brazilian percussion, as well as taking part in the evening activities such as the awards dinner, disco and karaoke.
Building on from this positive experience, one of Josh’s goals for the future is to go on his own independent holiday and while the COVID pandemic has meant this has been difficult to organise over the last year, the team have been helping him to prepare, including supporting him with this holiday plans and sorting out his passport so that he is ready to go when the time is right.
The team are now supporting Josh as he prepares to move on to his own flat within the community with just outreach support and Josh is very much looking forward to being just like any other young man his own age, living independently, going out to clubs and bars and having a girlfriend in the future.
Josh says, “Being more independent and being treated like an adult is really important to me, and here at St Stephen’s I have been able to work towards more independence whilst knowing I am safe and supported by staff. I have really enjoyed my time living at St Stephen’s and I am confident that I have now learned all the skills I need to successfully move on. I am excited to see what the future will hold for me.”