St Camillus Care Group is a relatively new social care organisation. Based in Gateshead, it is establishing itself as a provider of day services, respite care, training programmes and work-based internships for people with learning disabilities or autism.
The company was set up to try to meet the growing needs of local people with learning disabilities or autism. It is striving for its services to meet the high expectations of clients and carers; enabling people to gain skills, build confidence and, ultimately, find paid employment.
With their new project, the senior management of St Camillus have set out to co-design day provision and residential accommodation, to make sure that clients have bespoke services to meet their specific needs. Its aim is to offer more than day services and respite.
They want to offer meaningful opportunities for the people who attend, as well as the wider community, with the intention to enable clients to be fully-trained to join the local workforce, wherever possible.
The management believe that everybody has a right to maximise their potential and they declare that anything short of this aim would mean they have failed their service users. As a result, they are designing their day provision to have a meaningful, strong, outcome-based curriculum that is built around the needs and wishes of the clients and their carers.
St Camillus Managing Director, John Heron knows first-hand the benefit of good opportunities for people with learning disabilities or autism.
John has learning difficulties and his personal understanding of what young people may struggle with is the driving force behind the company. He wants to help others by providing a route to employment in a safe and fun environment in which the students can grow in confidence and really find themselves.
This ethos is reflected in Camillus Care’s new, innovated day service and respite, The Vault. Set on the banks of the River Tyne, on the site of the former Rivers Edge Hotel, The Vault will offer respite care and day opportunities for young people with learning disabilities. It is intended to equip clients with the necessary skills to work in the hospitality industry.
Planning permission was granted in August and refurbishment work is underway to transform the 28 bedrooms of the former hotel, to make them suitable for respite care. It is hoped that these works will be completed by the end of November.
The Vault will not only provide day services and respite care to young people, but, true to the company’s ethos, it will also train them to work in the hospitality industry.
St Camillus wants the Vault to be the first of its kind in the area, and provide users with a truly unique and tailored experience. John explained more about the project, ‘There are very few opportunities for people with learning disabilities or autism.
‘At the Vault, we offer an internship and a traineeship within the hospitality industry. The main contributing factor behind choosing hospitality is that we feel that our learners have an extra eye for detail which would benefit hotel operators.
‘We firmly believe that breaking the mould on existing provision, and allowing the service user to develop their own package of care, is the key to not only the happiness of the service user and carers but also helps to make sure that the user can enjoy an active lifestyle and social life.’
Training and employment
To provide people with autism and learning disabilities with the tools and support to have a full life, Camillus Care is offering full training and employment within the Vault, with real links to employers outside of the building.
The ground floor has been transformed into an American-style diner, which is currently being used by clients. The intention is to open it to the public in due course. Training has started on giving young people with autism or learning disabilities the opportunity to work in the Vault alongside trained staff.
The venue also has a function room, which is currently being used by clients; however, as with the diner, the intention is to open it up to the wider community for business meetings and celebrations.
John commented on how young people can get involved, ‘People can book onto our course through the job centre, Gateshead college, or self-referral. We also offer out-of-borough learners the opportunity to stay with us in one of our newly-refurbished rooms for the duration of their course. In conjunction with the hospitality qualifications gained, clients will also learn the necessary life skills readying them for their own independence.
‘We have been open to our learners since May and we have placed three into employment already. We aim to place as many learners as possible into employment and help them transition into their role. Our commitment to them is that we will always be there for them going forward.’
Over to the experts…
Combining respite, day services, training and employment offers young people a complete pathway to work, with the necessary support to assist them. Is this approach one that could be emulated elsewhere? Is this kind of pathway needed to support young people into employment? Does it offer opportunities for young people to find their role in the wider society? Is it an option for diversification amongst specialist care providers? What does the panel think?
Applauded for meeting the challenge head-on
I have an abiding memory of someone we support telling me how he’d stopped claiming benefits because he’d started working. He was full of pride at his new found independence, as well as loving the opportunity to make new friends. Such independence is an aspiration we have for ourselves and our families, and one we should have for people with learning disabilities.
This is why it is fantastic to hear about an organisation delivering change through employment training for people with learning disabilities. By providing this pathway, The Vault will be bringing about opportunities that help people connect with their communities, overcome loneliness, and develop the skills and self-confidence necessary to find work and friendships. Without such schemes, people with learning disabilities can become lonely, and are unlikely to have the resources they need to find work and employment.
FitzRoy continually looks for ways to break down frontiers for those with learning disabilities to achieve full integration in their communities. This approach was strengthened last year when, through our research Who will care after I’ve gone? with families and parents of adult children with learning disabilities, we learnt that many live in fear for their children’s futures. Parents told us that they are often so worried about what will happen to their son or daughter after they’ve died, they hoped their child died before them.
This is a call to arms to all of us to seek ways to stop vulnerable adults falling through the gaps in social care provision and provide the support they need to live fulfilling lives, and I applaud the Vault for meeting this challenge head-on.
Anna Galliford Chief Executive, FitzRoy
An innovative and tailored approach
Anything that increases opportunities for disabled people – whilst ensuring they are the right opportunities – should be welcomed.
The Vault looks like an innovative and tailored approach by St Camillus Care Group. It is clear that they have not just stopped at providing excellent respite care for local people in the North East with learning disabilities or autism.
By providing the right level of support for people, they will also be using the former hotel as a platform for suitable work opportunities and training.
The fact St Camillus Care Group is using its services to provide training to young people with learning disabilities, so that they can have the necessary skills to work in the hospitality industry is also heartening.
It is clear that innovation is happening right across the social care sector. I believe that the third sector is leading the way and it is great to see projects all over the country that are ensuring disabled people aren’t left behind.
As a leading disability charity, Papworth Trust prioritises social care and employment, along with housing, and this is a perfect marriage of that.
From Newcastle to Newmarket, our needs as individuals aren’t so different. We want a home, support and employment opportunities. As we all know in social care, the Government has set an ambitious and welcome target of halving the disability employment gap by 2020.
As a sector, we must work together with the local economy. This will help to break down any perceived barriers and challenges that occur when it comes to employing disabled people.
Vicky McDermott Chief Executive, Papworth Trust
Going against inclusion and integration
In 2016, we are looking at full inclusion of disabled people into society, at every level, as in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the right to live and integrate into the community.
To set up a day service that also includes a respite service and onsite training opportunities services seems like it is going against the principle of inclusion and integration.
The best way for people with autism and learning disabilities to gain employment skills is to be in the workplace, alongside the rest of the non-learning disabled workforce on internships and work experience. Not in a segregated separate service.
Young people need to attend college not day services, if they are learning about the hospitality industry, why aren’t they in college alongside other non-learning disabled students and having internships in local hotels? Why open a separate American diner, rather than support existing restaurants to become inclusive employers?
I would have concerns that a 28-bed respite care unit could constitute an institution. Would you want to go somewhere for a break with 27 other people you don’t know? I know I wouldn’t.
We shouldn’t be building new institutions in 2016 and trying to convince ourselves that these will give people with learning disabilities a ‘unique and tailored experience’.
If we are really committed to supporting people with learning disabilities to fulfil their dreams and be treated with the dignity and respect that we want for ourselves, then I don’t believe that this is the way to do it.
Philipa Bragman Chief Executive, CHANGE