Podcast Episode 53. Getting to know any young person is the essential first step in understanding what they need when it comes to helping them achieve greater independence. This is the core ethos of this week’s podcast guests Trudy and Darren Dzirasa-Payne from Impacting Lives.
Impacting Lives provides housing and associated support services for young people with additional needs. What they focus on is providing services that work for the individual and balance this with running what is a business by keeping their costs under control through the use of technology and keeping administration costs low. This combined with clear processes helps ensure they can provide what is needed by the young people they support whilst continuing to run a sustainable business.
There is no doubt that services that provide accommodation for young people with additional can often have a bad reputation. impacting Lives and Trudy and Darren show that the residential care home model can be less about the home and more about the care. It ultimately comes down to the core values of the organization.
Whatever the individual solution that works for our young people it is reassuring to hear about organizations like Impacting Lives, and people like Trudy and Darren, who are driven by a greater purpose to help change the lives of individuals and ensure they live the kind of lives they desire.Show Full Transcript
DEBRA: Welcome to episode 53 of the Journey Skills podcast. This episode was recorded quite a while back and after I recorded it, I wasn’t really sure how it fitted into the main focus of Journey Skills which is all about independence. However, over time I’ve realized that my idea of independence isn’t going to be the same as other parents and that my daughter’s needs aren’t the same as other young people’s needs.
So, the organization that I’m talking to in this podcast, Impacting Lives, although it’s not an organization that perhaps my daughter might use, is something that other parents might find really helps meet the needs of their young person. And more importantly, listening to Trudy and Darren from Impacting Lives actually shows that the services they provide which sometimes will be referred to as a care home is actually much more than that, at least, it is in the way that they run it. There’s no doubt if everyone operated these kinds of supported housing projects as they do with the same ethos and values, then we would all be pretty comfortable for our young people to be put into this type of environment.
So the podcast does two things really. It restores faith in the sector which, let’s face it, has some very bad press by showing that there are people out there like Trudy and Darren, who as it says in the title of the podcast, put the young people before profit. Secondly, from listening to Trudy and Darren talk about their experiences in this sector, you will hear some excellent practical tips that we can use as parents to help foster greater independence.
Talking to Trudy and Darren reminded me once again of the many amazing people out there that are helping our young people become more independent. It’s also a good reminder that there are many solutions out there and one that might not be for you will be exactly the right solution for someone else.
DEBRA: This week I am talking to Trudy and Darren Dzirasa-Payne from Impacting Lives which is based in the UK. Can we start by just talking about your professional backgrounds and how Impacting Lives got started?
TRUDY: About 17 years ago, I found myself in Health and Social Care. I worked my way up to become an assistant manager and then a manager. Then about 10 or 11 years ago, I went to do my MBA and met a colleague on there and he encouraged me to set up my own business because he thought I had developed the expertise and skills set needed. So, we set up a business about 10 years ago and we started up by supporting young people between the ages of 16 and 18. The whole idea at the time was to support these individuals who had been in care to go and to live independently. These young people had learning disabilities, mental health issues, Asperger’s, Autism, a whole range of multiplicity of needs. So even though the whole idea was independence training it came with other issues, so you have to work with other professionals, for example, to deal with their mental health. That’s what we did for the first 6 years and then about 4 years ago, we opened it up to adults so now we support both young people and adults. What we do is we take client requiring very minimal support up to clients that require sometimes 3-1 support, 2-1 support, 1-1 support, so we’re right from low support needs to a very high support need.
DARREN: My history is in engineering, believe it or not, engineering and operations and managing businesses. I’ve also worked in law enforcement agencies. I then came into care as I changed direction in life. I was looking after to 16-18-year old’s trying to help them progress into work teaching how to write a CV and how to approach employers. Then from that, I came to Impacting Lives to assist Trudy with the expansion of the business and looking after the business.
So, Trudy primarily looks the clients, providing the care and support for the clients as the Care Manager whereas my role is operations of the business, making sure that we have the staff and the infrastructure, and making sure everything is connected and it runs smoothly. In a care environment, it’s not just the care, unfortunately, like all activities, you have the back office, you have all the administration that goes with it to make sure that we’re compliant and that we have all the documentation required.
DEBRA: Can you explain to me then what Impacting Lives does to young people?
TRUDY: We provide accommodation and care and support for young people. So, the way it starts is that we are a private company, but we have contracts with the local authorities. So, a local authority would approach us and say, we’ve got this young person requiring this level of support. Have you got any accommodation? Would you be able to support their needs?
We then go out and assess this young person and ask do we have a home for this young person, what level of support this young person needs, what inputs will be required, what other teams we can build around this young person. We also ask are we the right provider for this young person, do we got the right home for this young person because sometimes we don’t have the right home for this particular person. So, it is all of this information-finding that we do in the initial assessment so that we can then go back and say this is what we can provide or not provide, or this is what we suggest that you look for to support this individual.
DARREN: The environment is very important. It’s key to the long term stability of the client’s well-being. So, if the environment is poor the facilities are poor, as in that it is not very constructive so as to help in well-being way, it impacts on the client and makes a big difference. So that’s where we are proud to say we take the time and effort and don’t just to accept anybody and put them anywhere because that’s not what we would see as long-term success.
DEBRA: What are some of the steps that you then take to help them build independence?
TRUDY: So, when we go to do the assessment, we come up with a recommendation saying, for example, this young person, they’ve got no independence skills at all, they’ve got a lot of issues and these are their needs and these are the needs that we can help them meet, and this is the level of support that they require. So, somebody may require 6 hours of support a day or require 1-1 support, 24 hours a day or 2-1 support. We then decide what we think the level of support and the right environment that person needs.
Once this is accepted, then we do a transition based on the needs of the transition. I give you an example; we’ve had a huge number of young people that came from a local Specialist College when the college placements ended. What we did was do the assessments months before by putting our staff in the college environment for 2 weeks, working alongside them in the college environment to find out what worked for young people, what level of support they needed, what level of independence they had and what would they need going forward. We also then for the next 2 weeks allowed the young people to have a number of transitional visits in our home where they came for a few hours and built that time up each visit.
The other thing we did is spent a lot of time with parents. We had a number of meetings with the parents because the parents know the young people a lot better. We obtained as much information as we could from the parents, what works well for the young people, what doesn’t work well, what are their triggers, what make them happy, what makes them upset, what are their capabilities. We got all that information before the young people moved in.
We created a communication plan and a risk assessment. So, we got a range of documentation created for these individuals beforehand. So, when they completed college at the end of July and then move into the placement, the key work was already in place. It was a continuation of what had been happening. We already had a weekly time table in place for each person so maybe it said in the morning at nine o’clock we’re going to take our medication, we are going to tidy the room, do our laundry.
When it comes to people with learning disabilities and autism, you need a lot of routine and structure. And if you already have that in place and you maintain it, it goes a long way to help. So, we already have a weekly time table, detailing what we are going to do. Building in quite a lot of stability in there but because a lot of them are not time conscious, you have to be quite flexible and try to work to their own pace. We had all this in place though and worked the plan and we had a fantastic summer.
A number of young people that we have in care are sometimes panicky and scared from just thinking about moving to a new environment. They wonder how this is going to go so we can have a lot of challenging behavior and difficulties, but it shouldn’t be such an issue because we have planned it properly.
On some occasion, we’ve been pulled into situations where it has gone really bad. So, the young person is in an educational placement with another provider and things are not working. In those situations, you don’t have the opportunity to do all the planning and all the transitions. What we tend to advise in situations like that is that we put the person in a solo placement. We don’t introduce them to a home that already has other occupants. I can give you an example, we have a young lady that we have for about 21 months now. She was with another provider and things had gone every bad. She was suffering a lot of anxiety and depression, was going to bed as early as 6pm, was very aggressive and as a result of that was on medication. We assessed her, moved her to a solo placement with just her and her support person. Within a matter of 2 months, the medication was stopped because she no longer needed it because we had grown to understand her and removed all the negative stimulus in her environment. 21 months down the line, she’s a lovely young lady enjoying the community, she goes out 6 days a week, she goes to the gym, she goes swimming weekly. So in 21 months, medication stopped, no psychiatry, no psychology involved. All the negative behavior stopped. She’s got a better relationship with their parents and we’re now scaling back to support she needs.
DARREN: All of that comes down to quality care where you’re giving one to one attention to the individual and you’re taking the time and effort to spend time with them and understand them and acknowledge them and listen to them. A lot of low-cost care providers, unfortunately, don’t have the staff, don’t have the capabilities, don’t have the time to spend that time listening, understanding, and being emphatic and sympathetic. If like anybody you spend time listening to them and I mean actively listening and wanting to help that makes a huge difference for the relationship that you have for that young person.
TRUDY: We as an organization decided we’re not going to make it a money issue where some providers have got beds to fill or because they desperately need the money coming in, so they cannot afford to do the solo placement. But we decided for ourselves that for the first 6 months, we’re not necessarily going to make any profit. That 6 months was very crucial to the life of this young lady. If we can do this and get to know the person, we’re going to be able to make a difference. Then going forward, we can place somebody else in that home and then start making a profit which is exactly what we did. So, after 6 months, where we had worked intensively with her and got her to a very good, we were able to introduce other service users into the environment. Now it is working for us, but we have to make that sacrifice as an organization y in situations like that.
DEBRA: How many people would live in each house and how do you decide who lives together?
TRUDY: It’s all dependent on the needs of the people and also, we don’t create institutions. We decided from the very onset that we’re not about creating institutions, we don’t want to create big twenty bedded units, 13 bedded units where the person then loses their individuality. People regardless of their needs, learning disabilities, mental health, Asperger’s, they still have the right to be in the community and enjoy a community. So, we use regular homes on any street and then what tend to do is the most we have in any homes is 1, 2, 3 or our biggest home which is 5 people now. And we don’t intend to go beyond that because we think if you go beyond that people then begin to lose their individuality. Neither do we want it to be that small that people don’t get companionship or feel isolated.
So, what we also tend to do, even in our homes where we’ve got solo placements or only two people, we try to cluster them in the same area so they can have joint activities. In some of our areas, we have a Friday night disco or Thursday night games night. So even though there may be only 2 people in a home, each home will host an activity and they have their peers from different homes coming over to enjoy those activities with them. We organize group activities in the communities so everyone, carers and service users from different homes all meet in the park, go trampolining together, go to the gym together, go swimming together. So even though there may be just two in a home, we still try and create a community for them to share ideas.
We just decided that we’re introducing an in-house cooking club. Again, every home gets the opportunity to host the cooking club and then you’ve got your peers from different homes in the area coming in, and we all share the cooking activities. Because in an era right now where a lot of charitable organizations have been shut down due to lack of funding, we have to create an internal community because we want them to live as normal and enjoyable life as possible. So, we try to create a lot of in-house activity to make this possible. People have even gone on holidays together even though they are based in different homes.
DEBRA: So rather than being a home, it sounds to me more like a shared house.
DARREN: Yes, that’s a good summary.
DEBRA: I think the word home has certain connotations. I wouldn’t want to go to a home because it doesn’t sound like the kind of place that will build her independence. Without discussing the fundamental challenges around funding, itself if you provide a better service, and you’re a business and everyone understands that, but how do you balance that and provide that better service within constrained funding?
DARREN: It has to start initially looking at what your core values are. So the core values for us are care, the core values of quality. But that doesn’t mean to say it has to be hugely expensive. So the way we look at it is not as a normal care business. We look at it completely different by using technology, by using skillsets, by having low administration costs and low management costs because all of that cost money that down the line should be for the client.
TRUDY: But I think ultimately what helps us is that the two of us are Christians as well and we believe that part of our core responsibility, I always believe that whatever gift God gives you it isn’t just given to you for your own profit. He gives it for the wider community and the people around you. For me, that’s at the top of everything that I do.
DARREN: Human beings have different roles, different businesses, but the way to look at it is the long term point of view because we’re dealing with people’s lives. We’re not dealing with the short term. We’re dealing with the end game of making somebody fulfilled, making somebody happy, making sure that they have a quality of life. That’s not going to happen in a month, in 2 months, 3 months, or 6 months. It’s a long term game. So, the long-term view is getting it right from the beginning at our headquarters and making sure that the staff is trained properly, making sure that they’re compassionate, they understand our ethos and the company structure so that they emulate our point of view.
TRUDY: It’s not about how much profit we can make. The reason I don’t want to grow the business more is because I want to continue to be able to impact the lives of all the service users. I know all the service users in person and have a relationship with them. They can pick up the phone to me, parents can pick up the phone to me and speak to me. And I think by growing too big I would not be able to reach the people that we’re looking after.
DEBRA: Talking about the young people that you help, what are some of the things they struggle most with?
TRUDY: With the young people, from the 16 to 18 they have no skills in terms of independence skills. They had difficulty with boundaries because a lot of the 16 to 18 age group that we have had, have drugs and alcohol issues. It’s quite a big problem. So even though we’re taking on some of the young people to develop independent skills, you have to spend a lot of time, try to deal with other issues first before you can even get them to a state or place where they can develop their independence.
DEBRA: Do you think there’s a link then between criminal activity and having additional needs?
TRUDY: I think when you’ve got somebody with mental health or learning disabilities or Autism or Asperger’s, they’re vulnerable. And then you’ve got those drug dealers out there they’re looking for vulnerable people to use. So, there is a link, the minute you’ve got disabilities there are vulnerabilities attached you might lack confidence you might look a particular way and these people out there see you and see it as an opportunity to exploit you.
DARREN: And it depends also where they live because if they’re in the middle of a city then it’s easier, isn’t it? The criminal element is around the corner, whereas maybe if they’re a little bit more out around the countryside, the criminal element isn’t quite so close to them. So definitely, their environment, the area that they live plays a huge part.
DEBRA: With your experience over the years, what are some of the things that parents can be doing to help their children when they reach 16 or 18 and they want to be independent., What are some of the things that we should be doing as parents to help them get to that point?
TRUDY: Start as early as possible. Have the routine in place, have the boundaries in place, be persistent. It’s difficult. I’m not going to lie. Start early. Put in their routines, be persistent, be patient. Sometimes we have to be flexible. I think we should try and find creative ways of doing it. So, when we’re training our young people to do dishes, I’ll start doing it with them. “You do the washing up, I do the drying. Well, you did the drying today, I do the washing up.” So, I think if you involve them in the process and you find effective ways of communicating with them, it makes a difference. If you give it enough time, they will build the routine and habits over time.
DARREN: The other thing to do is network. Make sure that you all plan and make sure that you’re reaching out to other organizations or other families, other individuals, other professionals that can support you, assist you, guide you. Don’t leave it to the last minute to then try to find these networks and professionals because it takes a long time finding them. They’re not there in obvious places you have to do a lot of researching So this is why planning it early, reaching out, connecting with the organizations allows you to be aware of what’s going on out there so that you can tap in to these facilities because if you leave it to the last minute, it then becomes a stressful situation that is why reaching out and networking and planning is huge.
DEBRA: Key takeaways? To start developing the independent skills of our young people early. And also to use networking to find resources and the people that may be able to help you in the long term.
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