by Jacqui Thompson

Striving for the best for people who have a learning disability is what we pride ourselves on here at LD:NorthEast.  We recently had a visit from North Tyneside Council Contracts Monitoring Team who inspected us against their Quality Outcomes within our Community Outreach Service, and we were all delighted with the outcome.

As a charitable organisation based in Wallsend our aim is to promote independence and offer support in the community. We work with people of all ages across our organisation, and within our Community Outreach Service we support people over 18 who have a personal budget to have 1:1 support in the community or small group support.

Recent research has found that loneliness and isolation are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. 50% of people who feel lonely and depressed are more likely to die prematurely than those with meaningful and healthy social relationships, yet at well-being assessments for adults with learning disabilities we often find meeting up with friends and enjoying life is seen as a ‘want’ and not a ‘need’. Surely when assessing well-being we should take into account the devastating impact feeling lonely and not belonging to your community has on someone’s well-being? Surely it should qualify as a ‘need’?

One of the outcomes that we as a service are measured against is people experience choice and control in every part of their life. It is really difficult to fully meet this outcome when people are experiencing more and more cuts in their budget and becoming increasingly more isolated.  Another is people experience a sense of belonging and being a valued part of their community. How can we ensure this outcome is fully met people are spending very little time in their community?

I am delighted and proud that all of the outcomes we were measured against were fully met which gave us an outstanding 100% score. This is credit to our Community Outreach Team, our amazing Outreach Support Workers and the help and support of all staff and volunteers here at LD:NorthEast. But let’s not think this is just about the personal budgets we receive when supporting people to feel part of their community. It is also because we are a charity. We work tirelessly to secure funding to ensure all of the people we support can lead a fuller life and never feel lonely and isolated.

Spending time with friends and having fun leads to feeling good, which is what I would define as good well-being and what an assessment should be about. This is what I came into the care profession nearly 40 years ago to achieve for people. Back in the day I spent many years fighting for people to have homes not hospitals and I’ve always felt that being part of your community is a basic human right. Now we find ourselves in an era of social care with devastating cuts where we constantly hear ‘low budget’ or ‘NO budget’. This is not led by people’s needs, this is leading to a crisis in care where we will see people die prematurely due to ill health from feeling lonely and isolated. Surely in 2019 this should not be the way?

I am so proud of the work we do at LD:NorthEast and thank North Tyneside Council Contracts Monitoring Team for the amazing 100% score we received!  What’s pleased me even more are the comments that recognise all of the free support and work we do through our funded projects. “The organisation works with people of all ages and has a great range of projects and workshops people they support can attend free. Feedback from professionals interviewed during this quality monitoring visit was extremely positive. Professionals and social workers stated LD:NorthEast staff communicate very well with social work teams and have great values and are committed to the people they work with. All the people we spoke to were happy with the support they receive”.

Everyone who receives support from LD:NorthEast deserves that support to achieve positive well-being; it’s most definitely a ‘need’ not just a ‘want’!