A chat and a cuppa at the Independent Living Centre can be life changing
Open for only one year and in this short space of time, the Independent Living Centre has become a real success and an invaluable asset for Telford and Wrekin, helping many people in the community in informal and creative ways.
The Independent Living Centre opened during the pandemic in spring last year, not “at the best of times” as Cllr Andy Burford – Labour (the Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult social care and health, integration and transformation) recalls.
Cllr Burford reflects on the Independent Living Centre’s real success in strengthening the Council’s offer for residents in need of help and support, through the collaboration with community partners that led in setting it up, such as Telford & Wrekin CVS (Council for Voluntary Services).
But what is the Independent Living Centre’s impact on the Telford and Wrekin community and what do people think of it?
Cllr Burford says: “It’s an invaluable community asset, a centre for all ages and for all needs and abilities. It gives people advice, guidance and the opportunity to access and trial different gadgets and equipment to enhance their independence at home.
“Don’t think of it as just being for older people, anyone can come along and have a look. It could be for themselves, but also for a member of their family, a friend, a neighbour who needs support.
“The centre is open six days a week (10am-5pm and until 6pm Thursdays) and on a Saturday (10am-2pm). There are different sessions throughout the week for those with particular needs, no appointment needed (such as Autism and Learning Disability Hub, Sensory Impairment and many others listed on the centre’s webpage).
Ruth Edwards, Community Led Support Coordinator who manages the Independent Living Centre on a day-to-day basis, says:
“What we have here is not a formal desk, the whole centre is a space that mimics your home so you can see what care and support equipment looks like in a familiar setting and you can try it out.
“We invite you in, offer you a cup of tea and chat about how things are for you, what it is that you find difficult at home. We want to help you find real solutions that will work for you and your home.
“Anybody coming through the door here can talk to either myself, a member of our staff or to one of our volunteers, Experts by Experience, as we called them – people with lived experience of a disability.
“You might wonder if you have to pay for it - our advice is completely free. We have equipment displayed around the Independent Living Centre that might make things a little bit easier for you at home and we can talk you through the best options of acquiring it.”
“There’s nothing formal at the Independent Living Centre” – re-iterates Eleanor, Expert by Experience.
“You are not walking in and being confronted by 20 members of staff, asking you 30 different questions, none of which you understand.
“You are greeted by people, like myself. I am disabled, I am totally blind, I’ve got the experience of living through this.
“When the Independent Living Centre launched, the idea was that people coming can talk to people like myself and other Experts by Experience, to give us the posh title – with lived experiences of a wide range of disabilities.
“We can give you completely impartial advice on how to live independently at home and what equipment can help you with this. We want to make a difference, that is why we do this job. “
Does this informal approach work? It does, according to Katie, a Wellington resident.
“I brought my mum in here for an appointment recently because she’s on her own at home and things were becoming an issue with her getting around.
“She had a full assessment here. She went away knowing that there was stuff out there that could help her.
“We are now a few months down the line, things are a lot easier at home. She’s got a lot of equipment now to help her, meaning that I don’t have to worry so much about her overdoing it.
“My sister and I can have a proper relationship with our mother rather than having to sort of balance everything around what she can and can’t do. “
“It’s getting you the right help, at the right time, from the right people”, Ruth sums up.
Katie adds: “If you’ve got a friend or a family member or even if you, yourself are thinking that there might be useful stuff out there that can help with care and any mobility issues you or they may have, this is the perfect place to bring them in.”
To find out more about the Independent Living Centre, go to the Council’s webpage www.telford.gov.uk/independentlviing
On this website, there is also an easy-to-navigate virtual centre that people can access 24/7 from the comfort of their own home and learn about useful aids and gadgets that can be used within a family setting to live as independently as possible.
Cllr Burford concludes: “The success of the Independent Living Centre comes from it being driven by people with lived experience who are helping other people in the same situation, in a language they understand, in a very informal and home-like environment.
“We are on your side, we want to do all we can to make your life better, by making use of modern technology and making it accessible to all. Drop in to the Independent Living centre or visit its webpage and online tour or just share these details with someone who might benefit, it can really be life-changing.”
P Photo caption (left to right): Katie (Co-Chair of Making It Real Board, Wellington resident), Eleanor Roberts )Expert by Experience and member of the Making It Real Board) and Ruth Edwards (Community Led Support Coordinator, Independent Living Centre)