Regard Lyceum Theatre cut A group of people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs enjoyed a trip to London’s West End recently to watch a show, having helped to plan the day out.

The six individuals planned the trip to see The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre jointly with their care workers at Chinook, a supported living service in Lydd, Kent, run by independent care provider Regard.

Joan-Ann Dartnell, Chinook’s service manager, said: “The special needs of the individuals who live with us necessitated careful planning to ensure the trip was enjoyable for everyone, but it was so worth it!  

“Everyone who went had a wonderful time and they haven’t stopped talking about it since.”

Door-to-door coach transport minimised the stress for the most severely autistic members of the party, while the views from the coach windows in the heart of the capital thrilled service user Carl who is a big fan of vehicles of all kinds.

The group enjoyed a pre-theatre lunch at Byron Hamburgers, an American-inspired chain diner serving posh burgers with a choice of toppings, sides and salads, as well as a pint in the historic pub The Wellington on The Strand.

Every member of the 9-strong Chinook staff team accompanied the service users on the trip – even those who were not due to be working on the day.  

“No-one wanted to miss out,” said Dartnell. “Those who weren’t on duty decided they’d rather buy their own tickets than miss it, and it was really lovely for us all to share the experience.”

Chinook’s service users and staff are now planning their next excursion. “We’ve had good reports about how magical Harry Potter World is at Christmas, so that is a strong contender, but we’re still looking into it at the moment,” said Dartnell.

Shared experiences are a major feature of life at Chinook, based on the needs of the people the service supports and are planned to enable them to take control of their lives. 

“Many people want to be able to make decisions and choices with the support of friends and staff, and we work to make this easier for our service users so they can lead the lives they want to live,” said Dartnell.