John lives in a shared house in Hereford, with support from Scope staff. We first shared his story in December 2014, and we’re republishing it here as part of our 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign.
The night before John and I met, he hosted his 50th birthday party in a local social club. More than 100 people came, from all parts of his life – friends, people he’d met while volunteering, support workers, even his fitness instructor.
John lives in a supported living house run by Scope in Hereford, and has chosen to share with two others rather than live alone. He has cerebral palsy, uses an electric wheelchair and has learning difficulties.
Becoming more independent
I met him, along with Lottie, who manages Scope’s service in Hereford, in the café of a theatre near his home. John arrives dead on time, unsupported and under his own steam. When we’re settled, Lottie reminds him that this wasn’t always the case.
“We worked together for about two years, learning how to go independently in and out of town. We’d go into town together – I used to sit in a coffee shop in the centre of town, and you used to go off and cross the road to the newsagents and then come back when you’d bought whatever you needed to buy”.
“We did that for 12 months – you’d have different tasks to do, going into WH Smiths or the bank, and things like that.”
“[Now] I get it all by myself,” adds John.
“You do a lot of things yourself now. Whereas if you go back 10 years, you would have probably spent about an hour a day on your own, and that was only at home, never out. You’ve learnt these skills.”
John and Lottie have worked together for 20 years, and they have a strong mutual understanding. Lottie encourages John in the conversation as talking is quite difficult for John, but he listens and often adds his own thoughts.
Leaving residential care
As a young man, John lived in a large care home for disabled people. It had more than 60 beds, and was out in the countryside miles from the nearest town. John had little control over his day-to-day life and most decisions were made for him, from what to eat to what time to go to bed.
“[It was] horrible. You couldn’t do nothing. There was no town to go into. You’d have to ask the staff to take us out in the van,” he says.
John lived there until his mid twenties, when he moved to a house run by Scope’s community support service. He later became a tenant in the house, which means he can change his care provider if he chooses without having to move out. He pays for his team of support workers out of his personal budget, signing the cheques himself.
“I like to choose”
He is involved in all kinds of activities – from gardening at a local college to wheelchair football, to a music club where he volunteers to collect members’ subscriptions and take the money to the bank. During our conversation, at least half a dozen people stop to say hello to him.
“[In the future I’d like to] do more, like I am now,” he says.
Towards the end of our talk, Lottie asks John what makes him frustrated. “People not listening to me,” he says. “I like to choose. My own food. Be treated normally.
“I do things by myself, but there’s someone there if I need them.”