When someone suddenly loses the ability to do things they enjoy or carry out everyday tasks they’ve always taken for granted, their confidence can take a real knock that may be as damaging as their physical condition.
This is where CREST – Solihull Council’s Community Rehabilitation Enablement and Support Team – can step in. A council service since 2006, it aims to help physically disabled people of all ages develop independent living skills, ideally within the community rather than formal day centres, and particularly support younger people after a stroke or head injury.
What CREST offers entirely depends on what an individual needs to get their lives back on track. With around 25 clients registered with the service at a time, each gets very intensive, tailored support. CREST staff are adaptable – if someone needs help to access a group or community activity in the evening, that’s fine.
When clients are referred to CREST by colleagues in social care – or refer themselves if they realise they need extra support or advice – coordinator Michelle Shiels first sits down and explores with them what they personally want to achieve. Their progress is carefully monitored. “Achieving one goal encourages them to keep going and have the confidence to take that next step,” says Michelle.
It can take a weeks, months or even years. It may be a case of supporting someone when disability due to illness or injury means they can no longer live independently where they are.CREST will work with the individual or housing services to find a suitable property that enables them to stay safe.
Or they may be ready to move from residential care into the community. CREST can help them find somewhere to live, provide support to install the right equipment and assistive technology, provide occupational therapy support and ensure they receive all the benefits, grants and ongoing support they’re entitled to.
In helping one woman move from a nursing home into her own flat, the team collected donations of furniture, applied to charities for grants to buy carpets and spent their own time at weekends cleaning, fixing curtain rails and filling in applications for domestic appliances.
The team support another client who has an acquired brain injury to overcome memory and colour recognition problems to enable her do her own shopping and cooking again so that she can live a healthy life.
A registered blind client with obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol was able to avoid planned gastric band surgery thanks to CREST support to attend a local weight loss group and get more active by riding a tandem with one of the team, going to the local gym and attending an exercise class.
Some clients need CREST to help them back into work or learning. One got the support to complete a college course and volunteer at the 2012 Olympics. Another began driving again following a stroke.
The four team members have a lot of the right experience to draw on, including occupational therapy, carer support, home care, and day centres for people with learning disabilities.
They all have NVQs in care and on top of this get regular training to stay up-to-date on relevant long-term conditions, head injuries and learning disabilities as well as wider issues like safeguarding and benefits advice. This learning is usually provided by specialist organisations, including charities like the Stroke Association, Headway and Parkinson’s UK.
CREST is in constant contact with local resources, such as DIAL, which offers disability advice and advocacy, Solihull Community Housing and Citizens Advice, to get clients the right support. Working closely with Moseley Hall Hospital occupational and physiotherapists specialising in stroke and brain injury helps clients continue exercise regimes at home. Liaison with colleges and businesses creates training and work opportunities.
CREST often encourages clients to access direct payments and employ personal assistants to get long-term support that really suits them.
But however massive the difference CREST can make to people’s lives, Michelle and her team are frustrated that they are unable to do more due to a lack of suitable transport, particularly for clients who can’t transfer themselves into a car and take advantage of private transport offered by care and voluntary agency drivers.
In spite of these challenges, CREST is of enormous value not only to individual clients but to the community, because they get the right support to become active citizens again and put something back, says Michelle.
And the service keeps evolving, with plans to amalgamate it with similar support for people with mental health issues.
Secrets of our success
- Help people set realistic personal goals
- Be adaptable and creative in finding suitable support
- Work with lots of different local services
- Encourage clients to plan for their future
- Take as long as a person needs