High Worple is a residential care home with a difference, offering culturally-specific care to Asian adults with learning disabilities. The team of Asian staff assist residents to learn invaluable life skills while encouraging and nurturing them to lead a more independent life. Julie Penfold reports:
Situated in the residential area of Rayners Lane, in the London Borough of Harrow, High Worple has a modest appearance. Opened in 1998, High Worple is a small home consisting of two semi-detached houses that are linked on the ground and first floors, which has been adapted to provide accommodation for the residents.
The scheme was the brainchild of respected social housing association LHA-ASRA, with the aim of improving the limited provisions for people with learning disabilities in the Asian community. High Worple has earned praise in inspections from the Care Quality Commission for its facilities and the work of dedicated staff.
What makes High Worple such a special place is the range of cultural and religious backgrounds of residents all living in harmony under the same roof, from Christian to Hindu.
“Staff can all speak the same languages as the residents to ensure they can communicate effectively with us at all times. We provide exactly what our residents need culturally, from mealtimes to religious activities such as weekly visits to temples for prayer time. We want High Worple to feel like home for our residents,” says support worker Praveen Musti.
High Worple can accommodate five residents, though at the moment, due to one person recently flying the nest, there are currently just four – two males and two females.
Food, glorious food
Mealtimes are a time of excitement for the residents as they enjoy assisting with food preparation and cooking along with staff. All of the residents are vegetarian and like to have their food cooked in a traditional way that reflects their culture. Residents often assist with preparing salad or cooking their own japatis as an accompaniment to a main meal of vegetable curry.
The menus are planned in advance in consultation with residents, though changes can be made with ease if residents decide they would prefer an alternative on the day. Food is prepared and cooked by staff, with help from residents; the home does not employ a chef.
Healthy eating and the importance of a balanced diet are taught by staff and the residents are encouraged to put what they learn to good use in cookery classes.
Taking part in the shopping for mealtimes is another part of life at High Worple that the residents hugely enjoy. This can include a joint outing between residents and staff to collect the main weekly groceries after they have collectively put together a shopping list. Alternatively, if just one or two items are required, staff encourage residents to go on their own to pick up the last-minute requirements to help build their confidence and encourage independence.
“Our residents have aspirations and wishes just like anybody else, and our job is to help them achieve their dreams,” says project manager, Dina Devshi. “We are here to support them when they take risks, from going to the shops on their own or making an unaccompanied bus journey for the first time.”
When the initial five permanent residents first arrived at High Worple, referred by social services workers from the local authority plus Harrow Mencap, none were independent travellers. One has since mastered a number of invaluable life skills, which has enabled him to live in his own one-bedroom flat. The other residents – two of whom still live at High Worple – all now able to travel independently using the bus and the London Underground.
“The skills they have learned really broaden their horizons, their confidence levels have grown to the point where they are even prepared to challenge people if things are not done the way they like them. I think that is a real achievement and a good first step to teaching them the independent living skills they will need if they are to move into accommodation of their own, and even perhaps if they get married,” says Devshi.
Indeed, two of the existing residents are currently discussing living together in a shared flat once they are both ready to leave High Worple.
During the daytime, two of the residents attend a day centre Monday to Friday travelling independently together, while the other two residents have voluntary work positions at local day centres. One resident works at a day centre for the elderly, while the other works as a volunteer at the cafe in the same day centre attended by her two fellow residents.
Some residents also have paid employment. Rakesh Mehta works as a cloakroom attendant at Earls Court Exhibition Centre. Rakesh is a seasoned traveller and very independent, using public transport and navigating his way around the London Underground, using the maps provided, with confidence.
Residents are in touch with their families and friends, receiving regular visits, and the more confident travellers also make trips independently to see their loved ones.
“We travel with residents on occasions to assist them with becoming more independent. One of our residents now travels independently to visit his family, after we worked on a solution to help him to visit without relying on others to transport him. He is very proud of himself now he is able to travel by train independently and we are very proud of him too,” says Musti.
Outside of daytime commitments, evening activities include social clubs run by local charity organisations for people with learning disabilities including the Community Link Up, plus Ashiana, a charitable trust that offers activities and support for people with learning disabilities centred around Asian culture. Residents also attend football and yoga sessions, and enjoy outings with staff to the cinema, day trips on the minibus and sightseeing excursions to London.
Managing money is a key part of the skills taught to residents. Each resident has their own bank account, and they are encouraged to manage the money themselves, which staff feel is good practice for coping in the outside world. Each resident can withdraw their own money to pay the rent and for general spending, such as entry fees for club activities.
Staff are on hand to support the residents with money matters, with the exception of one who prefers to have their bank account managed and supervised by their parents. One resident, Kamini Shah, is so adept at managing her money that after paying her rent, she produces two receipts, one for staff and one for her own records. Other residents are happy to withdraw their own money, but prefer staff to retain hold of their monies until they are needed.
“The staff at High Worple are doing great work with the residents, who themselves are doing wonderful things in the community,” says LHA-ASRA’s group director of support services, Patrick Taylor. “It strikes me that this is the real meaning of the Big Society – people helping one another to help one another.”
About the author
Julie Penfold is a freelance health journalist
For more information on High Worple, contact project manager, Dina Devshi on 0208 866 2867.
This feature was first published in the October/November 2011 edition of Learning Disability Today. To find out more about the magazine, and for details of how to subscribe, click here