If there were ever any doubts that the right blend of building design, technology and care can radically change lives then my experience last month should put paid to them all.
I had the pleasure of visiting Moorgate Mill in Blackburn, a 20 apartment development for individuals with various disabilities and complex needs, twice in one week. This Inclusion Housing run site was designed by HB Villages with the technology provided through a collaboration with Tunstall and ATEL and care provided by Lifeways.
The first visit took place on the Tuesday when, along with Matthew Warnes, CEO of ATEL, I met with the people living at Moorgate Mill to talk about a planned film to showcase the site and demonstrate the new model of support. We were all assembled in the last vacant apartment, two “blokes in suits” and the tenants. My first impression was of a strong feeling of community amongst the group. I have visited Moorgate Mill on several occasions as part of our work supplying technology enabled care with ATEL, but only ever spoken to the people who live there on an individual basis. To see them all together, chatting and enjoying a bit of banter was fantastic, and shows how developing schemes in the right way not only supports independence, but also encourages friendships.
We began to speak about the film, explaining that we wanted to share the many things that are unique and special about Moorgate Mill, in the hope that other developments would take the same approach and more people around the UK would benefit. I was conscious that we were asking to film tenants’ homes, and this may include details of their personal lives, and I stressed that no one had to take part if they didn’t want to. The response was resoundingly positive, and we were overwhelmed with volunteers happy to be included. In fact, we almost have more potential film stars than we need, but we will do whatever we can to make sure we involve everyone.
While everyone was together, I also took the opportunity to talk to tenants about their experiences living at Moorgate Mill and using the technology, and to answer any questions they may have. There were specific enquiries, such as could we source a wearable epilepsy sensor (yes, and we have), along with lots of good feedback on the technology as part of the support people receive. However, most of my conversations that day were about the normal things; football, TV and saving up for holidays. Which proves to me that our part in Moorgate Mill, the technology, is doing exactly what it should and has become taken for granted.
Second time lucky
On Thursday of the same week I was back at Moorgate Mill again with a group that included Sir Stephen Bubb (Chief Executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations), who wanted to see the development first hand and meet some of the people living there. Yet again there was no reluctance from anyone to discuss how their lives have been improved by moving into their own home. The most heart-warming moment for me was when we went to meet Josh, one of the tenants. I knocked on his door only to be greeted by a smiling Josh in a Blackburn Rovers goalkeeper shirt; he exclaimed, “I know you” followed by a big hug. He then proceeded to show us, with great pride, around his home, and it was clear how much having his own home meant to him.
I left Moorgate Mill feeling humbled, as well as proud of what has been achieved there by all involved, and how seamlessly the different elements of support are working together to provide bespoke support. Spending time all those months ago talking about wiring in some ways feels like an irrelevance in the light of the challenges some of the people at Moorgate Mill have faced. But it’s only by creating the right foundation that we can achieve a new, better normal – from cabling comes community. We talk about how this model saves 40% of care costs, and this has to be important in the current financial climate. But even if this wasn’t the case, the incredible improvement in quality of life and outcomes has to be worth the change.
The film about Moorgate Mill is currently in production. To be notified when it’s ready to view, please email firstname.lastname@example.org