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From secure unit to a place to call home

For *Ryan, home had been a secure unit since the age of 15 and the possibility of living in his own home was never an option.

However, when, at the age of 27, he was diagnosed with autism alongside his mental health issues, things changed radically. The new diagnosis allowed the local authority to look for solutions to benefit Ryan outside of mental health services. It allowed them to look for help from organisations that support individuals with learning disabilities.

An organisation was found and Ryan was discharged, but a month later he had to return to the secure unit as the organisation providing the service were unable to deliver the support Ryan needed to live independently. The local authority tried again and this time contacted Walsingham Support, as we are known for successfully delivering highly tailored support for people with autism, complex needs and challenging behaviour.

Our team knew that the ideal solution would be built around supported living, finally allowing Ryan to have his own home with as much, or as little, support as he needed to live a new independent life. We had the perfect flat; trained staff were in place and, most importantly, it was available immediately. But the team didn’t want Ryan to move in right away. They knew that the key to delivering a working solution for Ryan was creating a daily routine to avoid the triggers that affected his behaviour, and that would take time.

The manager that lead the team says, “We knew that having a routine in place was going to be key to helping Ryan make the transition successfully. From the beginning, we made it clear to everyone involved that we didn’t want him to move until we had established something that would really work for Ryan.”

Our team spent the next two months visiting and working with Ryan to create a new daily routine that he could follow once he moved into his new home. A change as dramatic as this would always be daunting and success certainly wasn’t guaranteed, but when Ryan finally made the move into his own flat the results were immediate and fantastic.

Ryan went from being someone who hadn’t felt able to take a shower in eight months, to someone who showers daily and now enjoys relaxing baths. Ryan chooses what he wants to eat, when he wants to eat it and goes shopping to buy food before cooking his own meals. He has been to have a haircut, which was unthinkable before, and on top of this he has gone from taking daily medication to control his anxiety to occasional medication to help with his schizophrenia.

The impact of this move on Ryan’s life and well-being has been simply enormous. A recent review by his psychiatrist reports says that he is the best he has ever been. Ryan says, “I am happy now and know nothing is going to go wrong. I have quality time with my father because there are fewer distractions in my flat.”

This change would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of both Ryan and the staff who work with him. Creating the right environment and putting the right foundations in place has made Ryan’s move into independent living a success.

Ryan’s father *Gerry says, “I can’t believe the difference in my son. I go to bed at night knowing now that he is happy, and safe. When I visit him, I feel I am actually visiting his home, and not just a hospital environment. Ryan enjoys my company now, and I enjoy his.”

The rewards of this approach go far beyond the obvious benefits to Ryan and his family. Making the transition from secure unit to independent living also delivers a huge financial saving for the local authority, as the cost of supporting someone in their own tenancy is far less than providing a place in secure unit. It also helps reduce the strain on staff and facilities in the mental health department, and allows those specialists to focus their time and talent on the individuals who need it most.

*Please note that names in this story have been changed.