INDEPENDENT LIVING SCHEME
Aims and Method of the Project
The aim of the Independent Living Scheme is to support people with physical or sensory impairments to live independently in the community. Independence is defined as a state of mind as well as physical achievement. Thus making choices and exercising rights and responsibilities (to self and to others) are viewed as an essential measure of independent living.
The scheme provides full-time Personal Assistants (PAs) who offer personal care, social support and domestic assistance, at times convenient to the user. The Personal Assistants take their direction directly from the service user and each user is normally supported by two or three PAs.
THOUGHTS FROM A SERVICE USER
I broke my neck in a diving accident a few years ago. I am now paralysed. I use a wheelchair and I require assistance throughout the day to wash, dress, prepare meals, maintain my home and go out socially.
At the time of my accident I had just completed my first year of a degree at university and I was living with friends. When I left hospital, there was no ILS locally so I had to stay in a residential home.
When I was finally able to move into a bungalow in the community, I was initially supported by volunteers from the Independent Living Scheme. I still live in Purley, supported by two paid Personal Assistants who live in rent-free accommodation nearby. My PAs assist me on a two-day-on, two-day-off rota. They have every other long, three-day weekend to themselves. I feel that I am very well supported by my PAs. I try to maintain a relaxed working environment and I think that my Personal Assistant appreciate this.
I enjoy socialising with my friends and family and watching sport. Because my PAs are on hand to assist me I am able to come and go as I please, rather than being reliant on friends and family as I would be otherwise.
The Independent Living Scheme has transformed my life. I am now more in control of what I do every day. I decide when I get up, what I eat and where I go. I am able to make many of the life choices that most “able bodied” people take for granted. In short I am now independent. S.W.
VIEW OF THE SCHEME FROM SOME PREVIOUS PERSONAL ASSISTANTS
I encountered the ILS through one of its lavish advertising campaigns in “The Guardian” and promptly applied – what else could I do? I needed something to fill six months and I thought that I may as well give it a shot. I never regretted it.
The philosophy of the ILS is encouraging in a society which today seems oh-so happy to shove those who are disabled in any way – mentally or physically or through sheer lack of opportunity – out to manage on their own. Here I felt was a pocket of understanding. The disabled users on the scheme are obviously all for being out in the community (in fact sometimes it is hard to find a moment when they are not literally OUT – shopping, socialising, working, attending courses,’ everything one would expect in an ordinary day to day routine). However, the users do need that extra help and that is where us “arms and legs” come in.
During my time in Croydon I worked on two schemes, both very different because of the different activities and lifestyles of the users. I worked with one young guy and a couple. I would hate to have to decide which was the most difficult and/or enjoyable, as both had so many diverse differences. What I can quite happily say is that being arms and legs is not all pulled muscles and stamped on toes – it isn’t easy and it does take a period of readjustment, but it is a worthwhile experience and a wholly rewarding one.
And, if you don’t get the chance to do much that is exciting whilst on duty, London is only 15 minutes away by train on your days off. In fact the South East is your Oyster!! S.C.