Using Positive Risk Taking to support individuals to achieve their goals while keeping them safe

August 17, 2020

In recent years, as a society we have become more aware that a lack of suitable provision in the community means too many individuals with learning disabilities and complex needs are spending prolonged periods in secure hospital environments, often with a hugely detrimental effect to the quality of their lives.

Vale House was developed as a result of work done with local commissioning teams which identified an unmet need for a service which bridges the step between a hospital and supported living setting. It was designed as a small-scale service with individualised accommodation that would allow individuals coming from a secure environment to experience living on their own in the community while also benefiting from the enhanced support of a residential setting that enabled the management of their complex needs or a crisis that may otherwise result in re-admission.  

The service has a nurse led team, complemented by positive behavioural support approach that enables the service to focus on building the skills and strategies that individuals need to maintain to build upon their lives in the community. 

Many of the individuals supported at Vale House have spent prolonged periods in a secure hospital, they have challenging behaviours and vulnerabilities that make it difficult for them to manage their daily lives.

What makes the critical difference in turning their lives around is having a support team with the skills, knowledge, personal qualities and values to persevere day in day out to support them in working towards achieving a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Supported individuals may have restrictions in place which can hinder their ability to achieve a goal, however rather than saying no, the team will take a positive risk-taking approach and use creative problem solving to help them succeed.  Individuals are involved in support planning and risk management strategies from the beginning of the planning process which mean their needs, wants and wishes are met.

As an example, the team supported an individual to achieve his goal of visiting his hometown in Scotland. The risks were assessed as very high, so the team looked at ways they could support the individual while minimising the risk. The individual had previously shown an interest in helicopter rides, so the team supported him to travel by helicopter from Manchester to his home town where he enjoyed a nice lunch before taking the helicopter back to Manchester, thus fulfilling his goal while keeping him safe. 

In addition to the standard training in supporting an individual with a learning disability, the team receive training on Personality Disorders and how to support individuals with Mental Health issues.

Using a Positive Behaviour approach and Person-Centred Active Support, the team tailor support to meet each individual’s unique needs and goals.

To support one individual to achieve their goal of going to a LGBT group in the community, the team had to plan how they could meet their needs while also managing any risks. The team used a strategy called the ‘Leave Ladder’ which had worked well for the individual during their transition from hospital.

The team went on an initial ‘recce’ of the area and of the group to identify potential risks and anything that could make the individual vulnerable.  The next stage involved taking the individual on a bus ride to the area without attending the group. This enabled the team to manage the risk as if any step triggered a behaviour or vulnerability they could go back to the previous step until the individual was comfortable to progress. Using this method, the team were able to successfully support the individual to achieve their goal of attending the group.

It takes a special kind of person to see beyond a person’s past and beyond any challenging behaviour and instead recognise their vulnerability and respond with patience, kindness and compassion. The team at Vale House are those special kinds of people and the support they provide is transforming lives.

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