What an amazing year this has been! So much has been achieved in the face of such extra-ordinary challenge that I arrive at the end of 2013 with a sense that Adult Social Care in Leeds has changed – for ever. It is different both in character and in culture, emerging with a new, modern edge to our approach to care and support in this city.
We have called this approach ‘Better Lives for People in Leeds’, with three elements of Better Lives through Housing, Care and Support, through Enterprise and Integration.
Such has been the success of our integration with Health services that Leeds is now held up as a national ‘Pioneer’ of modern, integrated services. This is thanks to the enthusiasm of colleagues who have been quick to recognise the advantages of unified services, both to the recipient and the provider. Their work has been underpinned by the equally pioneering work of our Information Management team, who have developed the city’s first electronic client record system that can be accessed by both Adult Social Care and Health services.
The fantastic new Holt Park Active has opened, after long years of planning. It signals a new departure in the way we encourage people needing wellbeing and support services to make the most of their own potential, engage with mainstream services and genuinely become part of the community, where before they were invisible and disempowered.
And just this week, we have been given permission to go ahead with the new Fulfilling Lives centre at Rothwell, which will enrich the lives of some of our most profoundly disabled citizens. Again, the emphasis will be on becoming part of the community, with shared access by learning disabled people and members of the public. The go-ahead for Rothwell goes a long way toward completing the jigsaw of modernising daytime services for people with learning disabilities. Many people with less severe disabilities are already enjoying a mosaic of different activities in small community bases all across the city.
For me, a powerful and deeply moving example of how learning disabled people are now confidently asserting themselves in society came during a Council meeting in October. A party of people, supported by Mencap, made a request to the 99 councillors assembled in the chamber in the Civic Hall to call on the city to set up a Learning Disability Council where matters of importance to them can be raised. Their closing paragraph was to demand of the councillors: “Will you help us set up a Learning Disability Council?” It was met with resounding shouts of “Yes!” and a standing ovation. I firmly believe that without work to modernise housing and day services for learning disabled people, an event such as this could never have happened. I cannot think of a better example of Better Lives for People in Leeds.
With every good wish for a happy and successful 2014,
Director of Adult Social Services