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Housing and inclusion

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A Life in the Day
DOI:
10.1108/13666282200600006
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February, 2006
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A Life in the Day
Housing and inclusion
Peter Flanagan Susan Garry Jeremy Anthony Jason

Article information:
To cite this document:
Peter Flanagan Susan Garry Jeremy Anthony Jason, (2006),"Housing and inclusion", A Life in the Day, Vol. 10 Iss 1 pp. 22 27
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13666282200600006
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hous ing

Milton Court is a supported housing project run by Doncaster and South Humber
NHS Trust. Here Peter Flanagan and residents Susan, Garry, Jeremy, Anthony and
Jason describe in their own words the projects that have been developed at
Milton Court to promote independence and social inclusion and the benefits they
have derived from participation in these pr; ojects.

Housing and inclusion

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It is perhaps surprising that effective partnerships
between housing and mental health services are
not more commonplace, yet the fact that housing
management and mental health have a shared
and complementary agenda in supporting the
integration of people within their community is
uncontestable.
The Social Exclusion Unit report on mental
health (2004) highlights the fact that any
coherent solution to the inclusion agenda needs
to acknowledge connections between poverty,
discrimination, housing, employment, education,
health and community networks. The NSF - Five
Years On report (Department of Health, 2004)
recognises the lack of progress in this area, and
places the issues of exclusion and the mental
health of the whole community right at the
centre of the development agenda for the next
five years. The recent adult social care green
paper Independence, Wellbeing and Choice (DH,
2005) further suggests the need for services to
move away from creating dependency, and
instead seek to harness the capacity of whole
communities and promote access to so-called
universal services.
This article describes an innovative supported
housing project called Milton Court where a
number of effective partnership projects have
been developed to promote independence, social
inclusion and citizenship.
Milton Court opened in December 2003 and
is operated by Doncaster and South Humber
NHS Trust. The facility has 15 self-contained

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A life in the day Volume 10 Issue 1 February 2006 © Pavilion

bed-sits for people with mental health problems,
as part of a larger complex that also provides
generic housing for older people. Each resident
holds their own tenancy agreement and receives
support with housing management issues (eg.
benefits, maintenance, neighbour disputes), as
well as support from a small team of specialist
mental health workers on life skills,
employment, education and community
participation issues. The focus of the unit is very
much on support – rather than care – for
residents in their development of skills and
involvement in the local community.
The projects that have been developed at
Milton Court to promote independence and
social inclusion are described below in their own
words by five residents of Milton Court. Susan,
Garry, Jeremy, Anthony and Jason also pinpoint
what the benefits of participation in these
projects have been to them.

The cafe project

Funded through New Deal for Communities, the
development of the cafe project has been a major
step forward in creating a social environment in
which the two resident groups at Milton Court
can start to overcome their anxieties. Susan
writes:
‘When you suffer from a mental health
problem you have to deal with discrimination
and stigma on a daily basis.
‘So it did not surprise me to hear that, prior
to us moving into Milton Court, the senior

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Housing and inclusion

tenants already living in the complex were very
concerned about having people who suffer from
mental health problems living next door to them.
‘When we moved into Milton Court all 15
mental health service users decided to create a
cafe. This was funded through an Impact grant.
The main aim of this initiative was to build
bridges between the many generations and
cultures living within the complex.
‘We designed the cafe so it had a very bright
and Mediterranean look about it. We also bought
the appropriate furnishings to suit all ages and
disabilities. After completion we arranged coffee
mornings, lunches and teas for everyone living in
the complex. It was nice to see that people who
were once needing reassurance about us, were
now laughing and joking with us over a cake and
a pot of tea.
‘When I was younger I used to get very upset
about the negative views people had about
mental illness. Now older and wiser, I have
learned education is the key to stopping
discrimination and our small Mediterranean cafe
is currently being used as both a social and
educational venue for people of all ages, cultures
and disabilities.’

The gardening project

Improving the immediate environment around
Milton Court through a gardening project has
also been crucial in terms of how the residents
feel about living there. The project has also
allowed residents to contribute to the community.
Garry writes:
‘When we first came to live at Milton Court in
2003 the gardens were in a terrible state. In the
summer of 2004, all the tenants living in Milton
Court – 42 of us aged between 16 and 98 years
old – decided to apply for a grant from New
Deals for Communities so that the gardens could
be improved.
‘For me, the major change I can see in all of
us is the improvement in our communication
skills. As we dug the borders and planted the
shrubs, we started to talk and think about other
gardens we once knew, sharing our experiences

Members of the garden project hard at work

about these happy times. This also made me
think about family and friends and the
responsibilities I once had.
‘The garden project has enabled me to, once
again, have the opportunity to take some
responsibility. Responsibility for improving the
environment in which I live. It has also given
me personally a better understanding of personal
fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
‘The most enjoyable side of this project for
me has been working with other people living in
the community – such as the local allotment
association. My confidence and self-esteem have
improved, as people now talk to me about the
gardens rather than just ask me the same old
question ‘How are you feeling today?’ The truth
is, I now feel better because I am proud of what I
am helping to achieve and of the role Milton
Court and its tenants are now playing in the
local community.’

The education and exercise project

Another important project that has enabled
residents to build confidence before using
mainstream community facilities has been an

A life in the day Volume 10 Issue 1 February 2006 © Pavilion

23

Housing and inclusion

education and exercise project, which was
initially delivered in Milton Court. Jeremy
writes:

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‘As a young boy I always felt anxious when I
saw a classroom. My time spent at school could
only be described as traumatic. Even now, 50
years on, I still get stressed when I think about
my maths teacher’s negative and almost violent
approach towards pupils like me, whom she saw
as being stupid, rather than just needing a little
more support.
‘When I arrived at Milton Court I was very
happy to take part in any of the weekly exercise
classes, such as Tai Chi and yoga. I find these
particular types of exercise are good for helping
me relax at times when I become anxious. On the
other hand, when Milton Court’s IT suite opened
and educational classes began, as you can
imagine, it took the staff a lot longer to persuade
me to take part.
‘However, fellow service users and I now
work with tutors from Doncaster College. I am
currently studying basic maths at my own pace.
The Milton Court’s plan for both the IT suite and
educational classes is for people like me, who
have been or still are unable to go into a
mainstream learning environment, to first receive
some in-house tuition, with a view to moving on
to a more structured educational venue.

Exercise class in full swing

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A life in the day Volume 10 Issue 1 February 2006 © Pavilion

‘This plan has worked for me. I honestly
never thought I would enjoy studying maths
again, but I do.’

The market stall project

Some residents may be considering an eventual
return to employment, and the market stall
project has provided them with useful work
experience. Once again, the focus is very much
on preparing people for entering mainstream
open employment. Anthony writes:

Running the market stall
‘For the past 14 months we have had the use of a
stall in Doncaster Market Place. The main aim of
our stall is to enable people like me to gain
employment with support. Because of the type of
mental health need I now have, I will always
need some guidance.
‘There are another eight fellow service users
who help to run the stall. We open three days a
week from 10am until 3pm. Our stall sells
plants, clothes and fancy goods. Most of the
items sold are from education centres, hospitals
or donated from members of the public.
‘Before gaining a placement on the stall, each
service user had to be registered as a volunteer,
so that means we had to have an interview. I
bought a new suit because it is important how
you look when going for a job, and I told the
others the same. If we gain a placement and
complete a period of training, then the relevant
references can be provided to support further
training or job applications for retail work.
‘Before my illness I was a trained head chef
for ten years with the Bernie Inn food
companies. I must admit I did not know what to

Housing and inclusion

expect. I had never worked on a market stall
before and I was dreading having to shout
“Come and get your bananas”, so thank God we
don’t sell fruit. All the other fellow market
traders at the market are very good to us. I enjoy
working alongside the many different
nationalities all trying to make a living, but most
of all I just like working because I love a good
old gossip.’

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Citizenship

All the projects described above have a quite
specific focus, but their impact is far wider in
terms of how people feel about themselves, their
sense of having their own home and being part of
a community. The sense of having a role and
making a contribution are key to citizenship.
Jason writes:
‘I know that when I first left hospital changing
the way I looked and felt would only be part of
my story. More importantly, through hard work
and my commitment, I could hope to make a
positive and permanent change to my quality
of life.
‘I soon found this was to be true: at Milton
Court, team and community work is everything.
During the past 18 months we have tackled a
range of ambitious projects by working together
to achieve our common goals.
‘It has been years since I worked for anything
other than myself and I had never had my own

home as I have now. Yes of course I have lived
in a flat before, but I did not class it as a home –
it was just a place to sleep in at night. After all,
it’s not the bricks and mortar that makes the
home or the community, it’s the people within or
around it.
‘Being heavily involved in the refurbishment
of Milton Court, and seeing the difference we
have made to the complex with just a little hard
work, has led me to look at the town I live in,
and do you know I liked it. The amount of work
that has been put into improving Doncaster has
been unbelievable. There are flowers
everywhere, different pieces of artwork. We are
going to have a university, and someone told me
that we might even end up as a city. It’s great.
‘In fact, I was so impressed I voted this year
for the first time ever and I am nearly 30 years
old.
‘I think what I am trying to say is – after
years of not feeling I belong anywhere I am glad
to be part of Milton Court and its commitment to
what is now not only my local community but
also the town I live in, and I am proud of it.’

Partnership working

Partnership working is at the heart of our social
inclusion policy and recovery service. It has
been important to work with our public sector
mental health partners, political parties,
voluntary agencies and, very importantly, the
local community.

A life in the day Volume 10 Issue 1 February 2006 © Pavilion

25

Housing and inclusion

As a result of intensive consultative processes
we have already established a climate of trust,
involvement and shared success via many local
projects within the community. These include:

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● Tenants and Residents Association. This
group includes representatives from the
police, council and housing, and is very much
about taking responsibility and ownership of
our neighbourhood and seeking to improve
the environment, reduce crime, improve the
quality of housing stock and look at
education issues
● Balby Parent and Resident Association. This
group is concerned with breaking down
barriers between young people and the
community and is an offshoot of the above.
The group took responsibility for a grassed
area outside Milton Court that was a focus for
anti-social behaviour and substance misuse.
Through a New Deal for Communities grant
it has now been successfully regenerated as a
large children’s play area.
Our reputation, resources and understanding of
community involvement have put Milton Court
at the forefront of creating a new and innovative
community partnership. This has led to a huge
regeneration of the Milton Court complex.
The residents of Milton Court regularly
engage with a wide range of government and
consultative bodies. They participate in panels,
forums and committees and assist in forming
public policy on community regeneration and
better supported accommodation for Doncaster’s
mental health service users.
Through openness, commitment and an ethos
of collaborative working we continue to build
relationships with our fellow tenants, neighbours
and landlords to set and achieve high objectives
for our community.

Co-producers

The projects described here clearly demonstrate
that Milton Court has moved to a level of
personalised care where residents are ‘coproducers’ (Rankin, 2005) of their care and in
which they have clear responsibility for
determining their future. It is also based on a real
‘community of recovery’ in which a wide range
of informal and formal networks have evolved,
but also one in which new bridging opportunities
to the wider community are constantly sought.
The public health white paper Choosing
Health (DH, 2004) suggests the need for mental
health to be promoted at three different levels:
strengthening individuals, strengthening
communities and removing structural barriers.
The ongoing work described here at Milton
Court evidences real progress in all of these
arenas. The residents are now considerably less
reliant on the acute in-patient unit, day hospitals
and day centres provided locally.
This imaginative and ground-breaking project
took as its starting point a strategic partnership
between mental health and housing. However, it
is now making considerable progress on most, if
not all, of the domains of the social inclusion
agenda.
Department of Health (2004) The national service
framework for mental health - five years on. London:
Department of Health.

References

Department of Health (2004) Choosing health: making
healthier choices easier. London: Department of
Health.
Department of Health (2005) Independence, wellbeing
and choice: our vision for the future of social care for
adults in England. (The social care green paper.)
London: Department of Health.

Social Exclusion Unit (2004) Mental health and social
exclusion. London: ODPM.
Rankin J (2005) Mental health in the mainstream:
developments and trends in mental health policy.
London: Rethink/ippr.

Peter Flanagan is locality development lead (South Yorkshire) with the North East, Yorkshire &
Humber Regional Development Centre. Susan, Garry, Jeremy, Anthony and Jason are all residents
at Milton Court
For more information on Milton Court contact Peter Flanagan, North East, Yorkshire & Humber RDC,
Genesis 5, Innovation Way, Heslington, York YO10 5DQ t 01904 717265 m 07979 494664.

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A life in the day Volume 10 Issue 1 February 2006 © Pavilion

In partnership with:

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A two day conference exploring choice,
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Date: 22 and 23 March 2006
Venue: Victoria Park Plaza Hotel, London
Managing New Realities is the premier forum for joined-up thinking and
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David Behan Chief Executive, Commission for Social Care Inspection
Lord Victor Adebowale CBE Chief Executive, Turning Point
Vic Citarella, Chair, Leadership and Management Task and Finish Group,
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Bill Kilgallon Chief Executive, Social Care Institute for Excellence

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