Chris Hampson Look AheadIn this guest blog, Chris Hampson, chief executive of care and support service provider Look Ahead, talks about the benefits positive risk taking can have on people with complex learning disabilities’ lives.

Risk is a constant in life. It is all around us. All the time we are calculating risk and acting appropriately. When we speak to someone we make a judgement on what we say and how. When we drive we are making hundreds of judgements that if we get wrong could cost a life. Parents have to decide when our children are old enough to go out on their own. 

But risks are something that people with learning disabilities and behaviours that challenge often don’t get to take. For instance, some of the customers that Look Ahead provides personalised services to have profound and multiple learning disabilities, complex health needs and demonstrate behaviours that can significantly challenge and have historically been seen as posing too high a risk to live in the community. But many were being detained in hospital or secure facilities for no other reason than that there was no appropriate services to support them elsewhere. 

These individuals can live safely and happily in their local areas with the appropriate support in place. That’s why we are working with a number of individuals and their families who find themselves in this position to bring them back into community-based services in a safe, planned way. 

The learning disability landscape continues to change following the revelations of abuse at Winterbourne View in 2011 and the Transforming Care agenda that followed it. Providers and commissioners must take positive risks: looking at what can be achieved rather than what cannot. Together, we have to support individuals to live as part of their local communities, close to their family, friends and support networks. 

That is why we have recently developed Nimrod House, a new complex needs learning disability service, in partnership with the local adult social care team and clinical commissioning group in Newham, East London. The challenge for us as a landlord is how we make our housing fit for purpose for individuals with this complexity of need. In this instance, we invested in one of our existing buildings, creating a new living environment for five individuals. The service brings together supported living and registered care placements, the latest assistive technology and an agile staff team that is shaped around these customers' individual needs. For these people, this represents their first opportunity in years to live in their local community, a major shift in their – and their families’ – lives after so long living within institutions.  

This is what we mean when we talk about taking positive calculated risks. We know that with the right support, setting and clinical partnerships in place, the more progressive providers and local authorities can play a significant role in supporting people to live more independently and achieve their personal life goals and aspirations. The rewards can be huge.

For instance, earlier this year I met a man in one of our services who no-one had dared take a risk with for years. He did nothing for himself and had spent years staring at white walls in an institution. He existed but did not live. He came to us and we took calculated risks with him. He is now in his own accommodation and recently had his mum over for a cup of tea. This may seem like such a small thing but for this person it meant so much. It meant freedom. It meant being in charge of his surroundings. It meant giving not taking. It meant doing something for someone he loves. That is what I mean by a reward that is worth taking a positive calculated risk for.   

About Look Ahead

Look Ahead delivers care, support and housing services to more than 8,000 people across 120 services across London and the Southeast. This includes: 17 support and care services in 9 local authorities supporting more than 340 customers with a range of often very complex learning disabilities. These services include supported living, Care Quality Commission-registered accommodation services, floating support and engagement services.