THE BLOG

Good Health Starts At Home

01/09/2017 10:35 BST | Updated 01/09/2017 10:35 BST

Anyone who's broken a leg before will no doubt have memories of how tricky home life can be when you're awkwardly navigating the stairs to get to the bathroom or you've run out of milk and need to get to the shops for your morning brew.

But can you imagine if there was nobody at home to help you? Or how you might feel if your disability was permanent? You may be feeling alone and isolated. It could hinder your recovery and impact on your mental health and wellbeing. Things might spiral...

There are solutions to these problems, however. And this is why I am proud to support Starts at Home - a campaign run by the National Housing Federation advocating the positive role of supported housing.

A house alone does not make a home. Even the most independent and healthy individuals value so much more than bricks and mortar. Think about it. If you're going on holiday you might ask your neighbours to water the plants or feed the fish. You might head to your local to meet up with friends and you might enjoy a walk by the sea, or in the country, or even shopping down your busy local high street. It's about community, local facilities, your environment - and much more.

We take these things for granted, but for some people, life can be much more difficult to manage alone.

People who live with severe or enduring mental health problems, or learning, sensory or physical disabilities, are just as likely to value their independence as anybody else. Why shouldn't they? If you broke your leg, you would have a temporary disability, but it wouldn't stop you from wanting to see friends or go to work. It just makes things more challenging.

This is where supported accommodation comes into play. It doesn't take away independence, it enables it.

Supported accommodation means something different to everyone, often because the support is designed around the needs of the individual. For a start, you can forget the old-fashioned image of a home where people eat at the same time every day, rarely leave the grounds and have little or no need to do their own shopping.

These days, supported accommodation offers and encourages choice and independence. People often have their own self-contained homes so that they can cook their own meals and choose their own décor.

Yet they might have 24/7 on site support, communal spaces and extra facilities that might include assistive technology, for example.

At Home Group, we have seen people with ongoing mental health problems move from a life of set mealtimes and communal living, to cooking Sunday dinner for their family, learning new skills at college and becoming regulars at the local gym. In one service, customers told us that they are now on first name terms with the local shopkeepers and often enjoy a chat when they pop in to pick up the newspaper. It's often the little things in life that make all the difference.

All of this creates a much more fulfilling, happy and healthy lifestyle. Having social and support networks and re-discovering purpose and aspirations makes a huge difference to people's lives.

'Yes, but it costs money' I hear you cry. Well, if you want to look at it from an economic perspective, that's all positive too. While supported accommodation services are more costly than completely independent homes, they save money in the long run as they cost far less than a hospital bed where, sadly, people might find themselves if they don't have that little bit of extra support they need to get their lives back on track and keep themselves well. It is also often the case that so called 'bed blocking' is due to housing problems, with a third of all delayed hospital discharges relating to housing - which may be because somebody needs extra support to recover, or perhaps they simply don't have a home to go to.

Additionally, if we look at long term support requirements, we know that a supported housing scheme for people with learning disabilities can save the taxpayer £6,764 per resident each year. The savings are significant!

With the right support plan in place, some people can move from supported accommodation into their own homes, gain new qualifications and find employment. It's incredibly good value for money.

But most importantly, supported accommodation gives people a better opportunity to achieve their own dreams and aspirations. We all have potential, sometimes we just need a little help to unlock it.