Autism bungalow has given Ed his life back

Autism 1

Moving into a purpose-built autism bungalow has been like winning the lottery for Ed Barker.

Since transferring to the accommodation in Bicester 11 months ago, Ed’s family and care team have watched as his confidence has returned and his anxieties have drifted away.

The bungalow is one of six to be developed at Priory Mews, Old Place Yard, by Cherwell District Council’s Build! team and Ed’s place was secured by Oxfordshire County Council’s Adult Social Care team.

It’s all part of the county council’s commitment to thriving people – we enable older and disabled people to live independently, and care for those in greatest need.

Ed said: “It’s really good. I like having my own space. I do all my own cooking and enjoy looking after my five fish.”

His mum Sharon added: “It’s lovely to see him so happy again. We knew he wanted his independence and this has given him his life back.”

‘He was getting more and more frustrated’

Sharon described Ed as a placid child growing up but his frustrations came to the surface when his sisters Stacey and Leanne moved out of the family home about four years ago.

“Ed couldn’t understand why he wasn’t able to leave home. He was getting more and more frustrated and the intensity just got higher,” she explained.

Ed, 25, became physically and verbally aggressive, particularly towards his mum, as efforts to find him supported living accommodation were explored.

As a short-term fix, Ed moved into a summer house in the garden of the family home in Milcombe, near Bloxham.

The summer house was fitted with a TV, kitchen and toilet and Ed became more and more of a recluse as the relationship with his parents became strained.

“We used to do everything together but we got to a point when he didn’t want to do that,” Sharon said. “His anxieties got so bad he rarely left his cabin and when he did those anxieties escalated.”

‘It’s made a huge difference’

Katie Upton, a member of Adult Social Care’s Integrated Locality Team, worked hard to find Ed suitable supported living accommodation.

Katie said: “I used to see him once a month and then after Christmas in 2017 it became once a week as we tried to find him somewhere to live.”

Funding was put in place for him to move into a flat in High Wycombe, but it proved a traumatic experience and Ed moved back to his summer house after five nights.

The autism bungalows being developed by Cherwell’s Build! team were due for completion in April last year and Katie made it her mission to secure Ed a place.

“There were six places available but 20 names on the waiting list,” she said. “I didn’t want to make Ed a half-promise so I attended the placement meetings and kept on pestering to get him a place there.

“It took 10 months to get Ed in but it has made a huge difference. It’s so good to come back and see him looking so healthy. It’s like he’s won the lottery.”

Sharon added: “Straight away Katie could see what Ed’s needs were and we worked together to find something stable for him. If it wasn’t for her we wouldn’t have had this opportunity.”

Purpose-built supported living

Each of the bungalows at Old Place Yard feature a lounge, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and underfloor heating.

They are run by SeeAbility, a UK charity that supports people with learning disabilities, autism and sight loss.

Support worker Helen Power regularly takes Ed out for activities and outings are planned to Cotswold Wildlife Park, Blenheim Palace and Southend-on-Sea.

Helen said: “When I first met Ed he was very quiet but there has been a complete change over the past 10 to 11 months. Now I can take him anywhere and he thoroughly enjoys going out.”

Giving people greater independence

Build! is an award-winning initiative by Cherwell District Council, created in 2012 to look at alternative ways to deliver affordable homes for local people.

Yvonne Rees, joint CEO for Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council, said: “These developments show how professional partnerships across the county –­ bringing together the experience and expertise of many different teams – can help provide homes for people with special requirements and give them greater independence to live within the community.”