Residents in Browston feel valued with winner Wendy
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015
When Barry first arrived at his new Norfolk home his ability to communicate was extremely limited and, distressingly for him, this resulted in extreme challenging behaviour.
What a difference nearly seven years has made. His sense of humour now shines through in his banter with staff and Baz – as he likes to be called – greets us with a smile, eagerly explaining how he is looking forward to going out on a car trip.
His progress has been so remarkable that earlier this year, the first time for many years, he was able to enjoy a holiday at Pontins in Pakefield – and he is looking forward to going again.
That is the magic of Decoy Farm.
Tucked away on the edge of the peaceful village of Browston, near Great Yarmouth, the former farm has been quietly turned into a learning disabilities home of which the whole country is now taking notice.
Manager Wendy Jack is proud to have overseen the pioneering project since the Kingsley Healthcare home opened in November 2008 and the first person – Barry – arrived in January 2009.
Seven years on, her pivotal role has been recognised at her company's awards night at the Ivy House hotel, Oulton Broad, where she won the Kingsley manager of the year award.
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Ms Jack, 48, who qualified as a learning disabilities nurse in 1993, enjoyed a varied career before joining Kingsley, latterly working in the NHS, managing a rehabilitation unit for people who had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
She said: 'I was approached to manage Decoy Farm and it immediately appealed to me.
'I wanted to do something to address the revolving door syndrome with which I was only too familiar, and to really make a difference to people's lives, particularly to those who can be really complex in terms of their behaviours and who can sometimes get a raw deal.
'People living with complex needs in supported living in the community can often find it challenging; placements often break down and can result in them being detained under the Mental Health Act, then they are discharged and the whole cycle begins again.'
Crucially, to provide the right level of positive behaviour support, Decoy Farm was set up as a registered nursing home.
Nine people, ranging in age from 27 to 63, are supported in a complex of three buildings, originally the old farm and two barns. One-to-one support is supplied by a staff of 40.
Like Barry, who has Down's Syndrome, Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other health issues, all the people living there have complex needs.
Ms Jack said: 'With Barry, he now has the skills to communicate more effectively. This in turn has boosted his confidence and is able to carry out ordinary everyday tasks that you or I would take for granted. This has made him feel valued and he is a real joy to be around.'
She said going on holiday had been a real landmark for Barry, as people with ASD found coping with new surroundings really challenging.
'For the holiday to be a success, there had to be lots of visits beforehand so there were no surprises; predictability is key for someone with ASD,' she said.
The people supported at Decoy Farm, who come from all parts of the country – 'there are so few homes like ours' – enjoy many varied activities including horse riding and swimming. Two men at Decoy Farm even play football with Norwich City.
Ms Jack said: 'A key part of our approach is positive risk taking.
'Gordon, who is 53, had been in hospital nearly all his life before he came here last year.
'When he went out in a car he would refuse to get out and yet we wanted him to come to our Christmas event at Browston Hall.
'We said, 'let's give it a go' and worked out a plan to get him used to it, first driving to Browston Hall and stopping briefly in the car park, then increasing the time there and pausing to have something to eat.'
Not only did Gordon successfully go to the festive lunch, but afterwards he went out with his carers to other local pubs and restaurants, she added.
Ms Jack said: 'Our goal is to encourage independence.
'For one person it might be an achievement to put a cup in a sink, for someone else it might be cooking an entire meal.'
The success of Decoy Farm, which Ms Jack puts down to the dedication of the whole team, has led to approaches from other local authorities for Kingsley to set up similar homes.
She said: 'We are currently waiting for planning permission to set up a home in central Cambridgeshire on exactly the same model as this.'