Sarah Sims is Project Manager for Real Life Options, a national voluntary organisation that provides support for individuals with learning disabilities. In this series of blogs, Sarah discusses Real Life Options’ Transformation of Residential Care Homes project (ToRCH) and introduces stories from the people it involves. The aim of ToRCH is to increase choice and control for the people Real Life Options supports and the project is being delivered in collaboration with Helen Sanderson Associates and Tunstall Healthcare.

Earlier this year, we embarked on a journey. Led by the people who use our services, underpinned by strong leadership, participation of the workforce and wider stakeholders, we wanted to explore the potential of doing things differently. We wanted to deliver on the vision of inclusive social care, in a cost effective way. We wanted to evaluate the possibilities of integrating assistive technologies as part of our person-centred support provision, and we wanted to understand how all of this could increase options and improve outcomes for the people we support.

Real Life Options has always been about promoting real choice, real control and real independence for the individuals we support. So, it was important from the outset of ToRCH that we put these people right at the heart of this project.  Our vision for the ToRCH project is to support individuals to achieve their ‘Best Day’, ‘Best Week’ or even ‘Best Year’. And key is the independent evaluation which is being undertaken by Birmingham University to assess ToRCH and examine how assistive technologies like telecare can help empower people on our journey of personalised support. The overarching aims of the project are to provide greater choice and control for people who use our services by introducing telecare and to support the move to Individual Service Funds. For example, by introducing an epilepsy sensor as part of a tailored package of support, an individual can gain more privacy and they can sleep through the night reassured that staff will be alerted should they need help. This means waking night staff can be changed to sleeping night staff or waking staff in nearby properties. It also means that personal budgets can be freed up to be spent on things that people choose to do.

ToRCH is taking place over a two-year period. Planning Live was the first stage of this project and was critical to getting it right for the people we support. Planning Live was a two day person-centred event where the person, their family, friends and others who support them all had a role to play. This event was challenging at times, as we discussed potentially huge but rewarding life changes.

We have now entered stage two of the ToRCH project where we will explore the real life experiences of the people using our services. These are exciting times and we are looking forward to including even more people and sharing our learning as we progress on our journey of personalised, technology-enabled support.

Sarah Sims, Project Manager, Real Life Options

Find out more about Real Life Options