Joan embarks on a new chapter of independent living and community volunteering

Meet Joan – a lady with learning disabilities who never thought she would be able to live on her own. Now, not only does she have her own home, but she’s flourishing in new volunteering roles.  

Joan had been living in a shared space in Oxford for some time when it became clear that her environment no longer suited her needs and she was unhappy with the arrangements.

A year on, Joan, 43, has seen a big transformation in her life. She has her own apartment, enjoys a number of volunteering jobs within the community and is thriving in this new chapter of her life.

“I didn’t think I would ever live on my own,” said Joan, speaking about her change of pace. “I wasn’t sure if I could properly clean or look after a home, and I had always lived with my family or other people. Now that I’m here, I really enjoy having my own space and having more independence.”

This fresh start is thanks to the support of Community Connections, an Oxfordshire County Council support service, which works with people aged 18 or over who have learning disabilities and additional needs.

The service helps look at supported living services to ensure they are running correctly and source volunteering roles and leisure activities to help individuals take part in their communities more independently.

Caroline Pickett, Case Manager at Community Connections, alongside other council team members, feels incredibly proud at how well Joan handled such a significant change, and is pleased to see her thriving.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Joan for the way she has adapted to such a big adjustment. The council has always prioritised enabling independence where possible and Joan has transitioned into this next chapter superbly.”

Re-assessing Joan’s needs

While there were a number of factors contributing to Joan’s unhappiness in her living arrangement, for Caroline, the amount of time Joan spent at the local day service and her volunteer roles was a key flag.

“Joan has always enjoyed her involvement in the local community and loves her volunteering role and socialising with others at the day service. But things changed when it was evident that she was spending more time out of the house than in,” said Caroline.

During a re-assessment of the situation, Caroline was able to confirm her theory was correct. Joan’s confidence and motivation were certainly impacted and she was attending her day service up to four times a week simply to stay out of the house.

It was clear that the only way to move forward was to source a new home that would be better suited to Joan’s evolving needs. And having her own apartment would certainly provide a fresh start.

Turning a new leaf

Alongside her team members at the county council, Caroline worked closely with Joan and her family to evaluate what sort of home would best suit her. Enhancing comfort and confidence were vital and given how much Joan loved her volunteering role in north Oxford, staying close to the area would ensure she could continue to work in her community and easily find her way around.

Community Connections sourced an apartment for Joan in a block of flats where many other people with learning disabilities lived. It was close to the area she was most familiar with and quickly gave her the surroundings she needed to truly thrive.

“It was quickly obvious how much care and pride Joan took in her new home and in herself. We noticed she was eating more regularly, had established a nice rhythm in her home and out and overall looked and seemed much brighter,” said Caroline.

Often in her previous living arrangement, Joan would struggle to stay motivated to care for herself and her surroundings – something that Caroline was concerned about now that she was in a space of her own. But the greater levels of independence have provided a stronger foundation for Joan to grow and develop these abilities.

With this new outlook and way of life, Joan admitted that she was attending the local day service so frequently only because she was lonely and bored. While she continues the volunteering role in her local café that she loves so much, Joan has stopped attending the day service entirely, choosing instead to socialise with her friends independently.

“Community Connections was founded under the principle of providing a good foundation for independent living, and someone’s living situation is central to that,” said Caroline. “Joan provides a prime example why re-assessing these dynamics is absolutely imperative.”

If you’d like read more about the work of Community Connections, or find out if you or someone you know is eligible to sign up for the service, please visit the Community Connections page on the Oxfordshire County Council website.

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