An award winning development reaches beyond the front door to integrate disabled people into the life of their town
Foundations for Living (FFL) is a new project which supports disabled people to be an inclusive part of their community. It demonstrates how housing, flexible support, learning opportunities and a whole range of services can be fully accessible to everyone.
The project is amongst the first in the UK to demonstrate how a number of key mainstream services can be developed to be fully inclusive for disabled people across housing, support, employment, education and community integration, as well as challenging attitudes towards disability.
The project includes 24 affordable wheelchair accessible properties across three sites, the Saxongate Community Learning Centre, which houses businesses, community groups and Huntingdon Regional College, and support for individual residents, plus housing and community support services.
It provides accessible housing and support, integrated with housing for sale. Support services include help with cooking, money management, cleaning and shopping. There is also a range of skills training and employment programmes like help with interview techniques, computing, literacy and numeracy courses as well as meeting facilities. 24 disabled people have moved from residential care or unsuitable housing into independent living in a town-centre location where they can easily reach amenities.
Foundations for Living project started in 2001 in response to local and national policy. The government’s strategy for people with learning disabilities, Valuing People, clearly identified the multiple barriers experienced by disabled people, including a lack of suitable housing, high levels of unemployment, low skills, poverty, poor health and difficulties in accessing suitable transport.
Through consultations carried out by Papworth Trust and advocacy groups with individuals living in residential care, it became clear that the majority wanted to move to a more urban location with better access to shops, leisure and employment opportunities, and with less reliance on inaccessible public transport. Following the consultation, Huntingdon was identified as the ideal location as it is already one of the UK’s most accessible towns, with level-access entry to shops and good transport links.
By working in partnership with Hill Residential, a commercial developer, the Papworth Trust was able to create a scheme that mixes affordable accessible homes with private flats to support the integration and inclusion of disabled people in the community. Residents’ views were sought at every stage and it their specific requirements in bathroom design, hoists or alarms were incorporated.
ChallengesKey challenges included:
• Finding a suitable town-site for the housing and Community Learning Centre
• A £2m fundraising campaign
• Supporting a large number of people in the transition from residential care to independent living
• Ensuring that the project delivered integration for disabled people.
These challenges were overcome through partnering arrangements and working with tenants and community groups as the project developed.
FundingThe total scheme cost for the project was £7.5 million, not including the cost of the private flats. Funding included £4.3 million from Papworth’s charitable reserves, £1.2m from the land sales, and £2.0 million fundraising. The project was not eligible for housing grant.
A fundraising and communication campaign raised major donations were secured from the Greater Cambridge Partnership (£250,000), the Medicor Foundation (£500,000), and The Bradbury Foundation (£400,000). A community fundraising appeal supported by the local paper raised over £100,000 from local groups and community events.
ResultsTenants report being more independent and happier with their lives, and say that it has exceeded their expectations. According to our interviews, 85% of tenants feel more in control of managing their own flat; 69% socialise in their flat more; and 46% feel more in control of their money (notably, with no tenants feeling like they were less in control than they had been previously).
The residents are financially better off because the entitled to benefits now that they are living independently whereas in residential homes they received pocket money of an average of £15. They also have control of their money, with many having a bank account for the first time, and gain knowledge of budgeting. The employment programmes are helping people consider paid work for the first time.
The tenants were taught the skills they needed to live independently so they needed lower levels of support which reduced the cost to the local authority They also say they can now use mainstream training programmes and community groups
Going for goldThe scheme has recently won the Housing Corporation gold award. The success of the Foundations for Living has inspired the Papworth Trust to develop a guide to help other organisations develop inclusive communities. Local employers have been asking for advice on improving access, and also training in disability. A number of local authorities have visited the project and are looking at how they can replicate aspects of it in other housing or community projects. Some of these have already commissioned Papworth to deliver housing and support projects based on the Foundations for Living approach.
Revonnia Gwewera is Gold Award Officer at the Papworth Trust