The transition from child services to adult services can be a difficult time for people who need support. Henry’s Circle was formed as he approached his 18th birthday, to help him and his family to create the life that he wanted.
Henry is 18 years old and lives with his mum, dad and sister. He loves walking and being outdoors, swords, castles and pylons. He also has a sweet tooth, and particularly likes chocolate cake and hot chocolate with cream. You will usually find him wearing his Australian bushman’s hat (without corks!); as well as a big smile. He has a real gift of bringing out the good side in people.
As Henry approached his 18th birthday, his family were struggling to navigate their way through the complex maze of services available to them. The transition from child services to adult services was confusing, and Henry was only offered very limited options to follow on from his full time education. In fact, he was only given one option – three days a week at the local college on a learning disability course. The course content wasn’t based on Henry’s aspirations or interests. Henry’s family knew this, but didn’t know where to turn to for support.
Let’s get together!
Henry had a Person Centred Review at school to help to plan this transition to adult support services, and this is where his Circle started. The purpose of the circle was to put into action the things that were discussed at the review and to support Henry and his family to start to build a map for Henry. This would then help them to find a way through the maze, led by his aspirations and interests. At the heart of the review was an exploration of what Henry wanted, rather than simply a review of what services were available. The Circle was careful to not be limited by pre-conceived ideas of “what people with learning disabilities do”, instead thinking about Henry wanted to do to have a ‘good’ life.
Together the circle looked at Henry’s perfect week. This became the starting point to plan for what he wanted. There were some things he was already doing that he wanted to continue, and the circle also helped Henry to think of new things that he wanted to do. Everybody gave their view, including Henry. Working together in this way, Henry has a louder voice.
The Circle planned how Henry’s budget could work to support his perfect week, and then the group wrote a job description for support workers as well as a one page profile for Henry which could be used in recruitment. The Circle did a lot of work in a very short amount of time, and felt optimistic that things were going in the right direction.
New people, skills and experiences
One of the Circle members, Adam, has known Henry for a long time. He suggested that his friend Sarah might be a good support worker for Henry as she loved the outdoors, and he thought that her personality would be a good match.
Henry and Sarah met each other and got on really well. Now they go to the garden centre together twice a week, planting, sweeping, moving logs and getting rid of molehills – their favourite job!
Henry already had good links with a local outdoor pursuits centre from his time at school, and when the Circle were working with Henry to plan his week, the centre suggested that Henry might like to come to them one day a week. Henry does a range of jobs, from using the ironing machine and sweeping up, to delivering water to people on trips and making lunches. Henry says “the thing about the Centre is they love me there”. And he loves them too.
From his time at the garden centre and the outdoor pursuits centre, Henry has gained new skills and experience. As a result, he has since been offered a role volunteering at a well-known National Trust property. He will be learning more from the Head Gardener, who has over 20 years experience!
Supporting Henry and his family
When the Circle started, Henry’s mum was feeling ‘burnt out’ from advocating for Henry in education over the last twelve years. She was increasingly frustrated by the lack of support for her and for Henry in transition. Now the Circle support Henry, and this also supports his mum. When there have been hiccups along the way, Henry’s mum has been able to contact the Circle members and ask for support, help or advice. She knows that if something happens she isn’t going to have to solve the problem on her own. The value of the local knowledge of the Circle members has really helped. Henry’s mum is so confident in the Circle members’ knowledge and commitment to Henry that there have even been meetings where she has not attended but fed in to the agenda and read notes after the meeting.
The members of the Circle have built relationships with one another and feel very relaxed in one another’s company. They’ve shared their experiences and created a safe space for conversations, and they haven’t been afraid to challenge each other, rather they’ve built on one another ideas. This makes the circle feel a very safe and secure place for Henry and it provides stability for supporting Henry to achieve his aspirations.
Henry already had positive relationships in his life, but support from the circle has helped to sustain them over the course of its duration; as well as helping him to build some deeper and more meaningful relationships with other people in his life. Through Community Circles we also measure individual wellbeing, and over the two years that Henry has had his Circle, both Henry and his mother have experienced an increase in their wellbeing levels.
The purpose of Henry’s Circle was to support Henry to have a good life, and support him to take actions that would make this possible. At the first meeting, Henry felt really far from achieving his goal. After two years, Helen asked Henry the same question, and as he was now volunteering at the local outdoor pursuits centre and had been supported to achieve so many positive outcomes, he felt that he had achieved what they had set out to accomplish.