The summary below is intended as such and does therefore not represent the full depth and detail of the paper as published in Health and Social Care in the Community.
A distinctive feature of the novel enhanced supported living model developed and used by Northern Healthcare is the transparency with which it has been, and continues to be, informed by and subjected to rigorous evaluation. The description that follows is of an in-depth study of the personal experience of tenants of the enhanced supported living model used in Northern Healthcare residences. This is the first report of a number of studies of outcome. In the near future, we will make the results of other research on the value of supported living, conducted by university partners available on this website and in more formal academic journals.
Traditional supported living models have been shown to improve functioning and social inclusion in people with severe and persistent mental health problems1, 2. Such an approach may be effective in reducing hospitalisations3, and in providing secure accommodation for a population where housing needs are often unmet4, 5. Conversely, living in some supported accommodation has been described by tenants as being a depersonalising experience5, one of marginalisation6, 7, and as an ordeal to survive5. In addition, evaluations regarding housing and support also often lack a thorough consideration of the experiences of the individuals under their remit. While such findings are not without value, they have not however offered substantial insight into whether supported accommodations are effective in supporting the ongoing recovery process of their residents, nor have they given a voice to the very individuals whose recoveries are so intertwined with these services8. Indeed, a recent editorial in the British Journal of Psychiatry called for qualitative research (with an emphasis on reporting personal experience) to fill this notable void in our knowledge9.
The research team at Northern Healthcare conducted semi-structured interviews with nine residents of the service between July 2020 and February 2021. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis and indicated three superordinate themes of experiences considered valuable to residents:
(1) support from care staff which was readily available;
(2) a sense of community and daily activity offered by the residence and on-site activities; and
(3) the experience of supported living as a stepping-stone in an ongoing recovery process.
Firstly, one theme which emerged continuously throughout the interview process was the feeling of being comprehensively supported in their recovery process. Participants alluded to several provisions which they believed manifested this feeling. These ranged from the delivery of both formal therapeutic services to informal support from residence staff with basic everyday tasks to the security offered by the stability of their tenancy and support in recovery, which promoted a state of feeling ‘at home’. Residents frequently cited the availability and consistency of support as being important to their recovery and ongoing stability in terms of not only their diagnosis, but also wider associated health problems.
Secondly, residents also frequently commented on the feeling of community offered by their tenancy. Every resident partaking in the interviews noted that they felt that they had, to some extent, made connections within the residence, either with staff members or fellow residents, with many citing that these connections had developed into, or felt like, friendships.
Finally, supported living was often discussed as a means of developing functional independence. Again, residents associated the support offered by their residency and care staff in supporting their rehabilitation and fostering their autonomy. The value of wider rehabilitation in the support provided by supported living was echoed in residents’ conceptualisations of their time at Northern Healthcare as being a ‘stepping-stone’ in their ongoing recovery.
Overall, our findings highlighted the power of comprehensive care in the enhanced supported living model. Residents frequently cited the value of supportive staff, peer relations, autonomy, and fostering hope in empowering them in their ongoing recovery. Additionally, and notably, these findings also indicate the importance and value of giving the opportunity to residents for their voices and experiences to be heard.
Author: Steven Barnes BSc(Hons)