Bryan and Warren’s story shows how enabling people with a learning disability to live independently can transform lives and address inequality.
The Equality Commission recently announced it's ‘Statement on Key Inequalities in Housing and Communities in Northern Ireland’ highlighting that ‘Those with a learning disability are not always afforded an opportunity to live independently’. www.equalityni.org/KeyInequalities-Housing
The report looks at a range of inequalities in housing and focuses on the story of Bryan and Warren Henry, two brothers who are supported by Mencap NI’s Personal Support and Housing Service at their new home near Omagh.
The report highlights that the work of Mencap NI and Golden Lane Housing is an example of how enabling people with a learning disability to live independently can transform lives and address inequality,
“It’s just marvellous - it’s the answer to our prayers.” This is how Isobel and Bob Henry, who are in their 70s, describe their sons’ new home. Both of their adult sons, Bryan (40) and Warren (38), are non-verbal, they both have a learning disability and complex needs which require 24-hour care.
Bryan and Warren have recently moved into a new bungalow near Omagh supported by Mencap after 23 years apart. There was previously no housing solution available to allow them to live together. They share the property with two other adults with a learning disability and have carers to look after them at all times – they have settled in well, the atmosphere in their home is both calm and welcoming.
Mencap’s Personal Support and Housing Service in Northern Ireland developed the supported living solution for the Henry family and believe people with a learning disability should have a real choice about where they live and who they live with, so housing is tailored to meet an individual’s needs and aspirations.
Before the move to this adapted home, Warren lived at home with their parents. Bryan had lived in a nursing home 33 miles away from the family home since 1994, which meant that it was difficult for his parents to visit him more than once a week.
Bob and Isobel have campaigned for more suitable and independent living arrangements for their sons for over twenty years. They sought the assistance of everyone who could help, including local politicians.
Bob said: “This move has been good for all of us as a family. It is a huge weight lifted off our shoulders. Neither of us is getting any younger but this has given us peace of mind for the future.”
“Most importantly the boys are together again at last, they are happy here and they are well cared for. We feel like we have gained an extended family through their carers.” “Our sons will never be able to look after themselves,” Isobel said, “but this type of supported independent living is more than we would ever have dreamed of for them. “
“We cannot express what this means for us as a family. We can call and see our sons whenever we want, just for 5 minutes after shopping or for a couple of hours at a time,”she said. “We don’t have to make an appointment or stick to visiting times. It is just wonderful. We are safe in the knowledge that our sons are content in what we can only describe as a home from home.”
Barry McMenamin, Regional Operations Manager for Mencap Northern Ireland commented: “This has been a great success story and proves the importance of building a housing solution around the needs of families and future planning. Mencap worked closely with the family and the Western Health Trust to come up with a solution where we accessed capital from our sister charity Golden Lane Housing, using their innovative Retail Charity Bond. We were able to find the right solution for all concerned.”