Guest post from Tony, who lived at Scope’s Lingfield Avenue care home in Surbiton until it closed in November 2014. He now lives in supported housing nearby. Tony’s story is part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.
It’s important to me to be independent. I’ve had a couple of jobs – one in an off-license serving customers, one in a stables working with horses, one in a music shop.
At the moment I’m working in a garden centre in the grounds of Springfield Hospital in Tooting. In an ideal world I’d like to work with children with special needs or learning disabilities. I had a voluntary job in a school for students with special needs for five years.
Living in a care home
I’m 47 now, and I lived at Lingfield Avenue (pictured above) for close on 20 years. Some parts of it were good and some parts of it were bad. When I first went there, there was no lift at all, so wheelchair occupants couldn’t get up to the second floor. Some people would have to overreach for the sink because it wasn’t at their height. All the bathrooms were shared.
I didn’t feel I had the support to live as independently as my disability would allow. It was just the way it was run, I suppose – I felt it did not allow residents to realise their potential.
When the word got out that Lingfield Avenue might be closing, and I was made aware of it, it was a shock. In a way it was a bad thing, but in a way it was a good thing. For me it was good, because I’d always wanted to move somewhere that was less care-orientated.
One of my social workers said to me that I could try my own flat, but I wasn’t ready for that, and I’m still not now. So they found me the place I live now, which is supported housing.
I share with a few other residents, and compared to Lingfield Avenue it’s brilliant. You can use whatever independence you’ve got, and the staff really encourage you to do so.
Being more independent
You can do your own cooking – anything you want to do really. I keep asking one member of staff if I can make my own breakfast, and he says, “you know you can, you don’t have to ask me!”
They say to me, “If you need help, just shout out and we’ll be there.” So far I haven’t had to ask for it much, but that doesn’t mean I can’t ask.
I had to get used to a new area, new bus routes. As yet I haven’t gone from here to Tooting by bus, but I’m itching to try it. One of the other things I like about living here is that they haven’t got a sign outside saying what the organisation is. It’s more homely, because there’s no label – it’s just a person’s home, rather than ‘residential accommodation’.
In the future I’d like to find some form of paid employment again, because I don’t only want to help myself, I want to help the general public.
I’m happier now I’m established here, and I’m far more independent. One day, when I’m ready for it, I quite like the sound of moving into my own flat.