A young man with learning difficulties and autism who was facing a lonely New Year after friends at his residential home moved out, is enjoying a whole new social circle thanks to the creative thinking of his service manager.
Jonathan Richardson aged 29, who has been living at Winchester House in Sheerness since 2008, was missing two close friends who had moved out into supported living accommodation at the end of last year, so service manager Lisa Falconer suggested they find him new friends by creating a profile to share with other services run locally by care-provider the Regard Group.
Lisa said: “Although Jonathan was still in contact with his former housemates, he needed new friends fill the gap when they moved out, and the profile we created for him has yielded great results.”
Jonathan said: “I met up with one of my new friends, who lives at Ashford Lodge in Chilham. We got on really well together and I enjoyed going for a walk with him and seeing where he lived. Next time he’s coming to visit me.
“I’ve also got a new pen pal, who lives at Bradwell Lodge in Hythe. She’s fun to correspond with and we have a lot to say to each other.”
The team at Winchester House supports Jonathan in many other respects, such as ensuring a packed timetable of weekday activities selected jointly with him.
This includes two days at the beginning of the week volunteering at Spadework in West Malling, where Jonathan’s work involves weeding, watering, digging, helping with log deliveries, and making items to sell such as decorative pot-men.
On Wednesdays he attends Skillnet in Sittingbourne, and is part of a group which visits local schools to talk to the children about how people with special needs would like to be treated.
Jonathan said: “It’s great to have the chance to share the anti-bullying message with a young audience, and a group of us even perform a rap that we made up ourselves which helps to get the message over.”
On Thursdays he does voluntary work at Truck By Truck, packing up boxes of sweets for distribution to local outlets, rounding off the week at Blue Skies School in Chatham, where he helps out with filing and photocopying, as well as showing visitors round, answering the phone, and accompanying the 13-19 year old autistic students to activities such as basketball, swimming, roller-skating, and occasional trips to places like Blue Water.
Lisa Falconer said: “It’s a central part of the work we do at Regard to make sure the people we support are really living their lives to the full, and that’s certainly true of Jonathan.
“Having readily-accessible friends is very important for him too, and the new friendships he has made as a result of the profile we did together are making him very happy – which is so great to see.”
Winchester House, a residential home for 12 adults with learning disabilities and autism located on Minster Road, Sheerness, Isle Of Sheppey, was recently inspected by health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, which rated the home’s safety, management, effectiveness, care and responsiveness, and leadership as ‘Good’ across the board.