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National recognition for a Bucks housing association

Hightown support people with mental health difficulties

Published by Scarlett Bawden-Gaul at 11:58am 6th March 2020. 4-minute read.

National recognition for a Bucks housing association

A Buckinghamshire housing association has received national recognition for their work. 

Hightown Housing Association, with centres in Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Princes Risborough, has been nominated for their work. 

They run a number of supported housing schemes across the county for people with severe and enduring mental health issues.

The group is one of eight finalists for 'Best Supported Housing Landlord' in the 2020 UK Housing Association Awards. 

Providing self-contain flats, some with on site care staff, enables their residents to live independent lives, with the reassurance there is expert support if they need it.

Already battling anorexia, while studying for her masters Jessica was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which is a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder.

Jessica moved to the Princes Risborough centre in 2013, after spending a year in hospital:

"It means everything to me, it means I don't have to be in hospital and they're helping me be more confident.

"Initially it was quite scary, when you're in hospital you get used to that environment but its like having an extra big family. If you've got anything you're struggling with you can go to the staff and they'll give you some time and get a strategy to get you well again.

"I still have issues with eating but they're able to help me with my cooking and eating. They also help me go out on my own because Im not very good with going out alone, I get a bit scared. They also keep a check on my meds so I don't do anything unhelpful with my meds."

Joseph has worked with Jessica, and says these stories of recovery are what makes Hightown special:

"She has been exceptional, she was very unstable. Now she has been through the steps and she is now able to go on holiday interdependently which is a far cry from what she could do five years ago.

"We try to give back, help them claim their lives back.

"Having an illness or condition does not mean the end of their lives. We all have set backs, if you have the right support you can build back that confidence. Some people have the skills but lack the confidence and need the reassurance they can lead a normal life."

Now, Jessica has finished her studies and is now now undertaking a PhD in Bioinformatics at Cambridge University.

When asked where she would be with Hightown she said:

"I would be dead, or I'd at least be in hospital long term."

In the past 12 months, Hightown has rolled out several innovative new measures to ensure that residents living in its schemes are able to gain better independence and move forward with their lives.

This includes a new outcomes-based assessment tool and digital technology that enable care staff and residents to work together to agree and record actions that encourage choice and growth, rather than simply meeting perceived support needs.

Sebastian Moh, Hightown's Head of Care and Supported Housing for Buckinghamshire says:

"We're delighted to have reached the finals for this prestigious award, which acknowledges the dedication and hard work that goes on every day in our care and supported housing schemes.  Our service users are at the heart of everything we do and we're proud of the innovations we have introduced which help them gain self-belief and challenge the negative assumptions that can often be made about people living with mental health challenges.

"The new measures have required a leap of faith from staff in the way they think about providing support, but it's been wonderful to witness residents with complex needs grow so much in confidence as a result; for example, we've seen one resident complete a Masters degree with Distinction and another start flying lessons, things they never would have thought possible a few years ago."

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