AS the number of people with complex disabilities increases, one care provider in Mirfield is pushing boundaries and adapting to meet current needs.
Tomorrow will see the latest in a line of pioneering moves by the Hollybank Trust in Mirfield, as it officially opens its new accommodation blocks, The Meadows, to house 24 adults and six children with profound disabilities.
Paula Lane, who plays Kylie Platt in Coronation Street, and used to be a student at Huddersfield Technical College, will be at the Roe Head site to open the new facilities.
Hollybank Trust has been based in Mirfield for 21 years and is now recognised as a leading centre for the care of both adults and children with complex disabilities.
Services provided by the trust have changed almost beyond recognition over the years, as the number of people with complex disabilities rises due to increasing survival rates of children who are born prematurely or suffer severe illness.
Back in 1990, Hollybank moved to Roe Head from Holly Bank Road in Lindley and was a day and residential school caring for 28 disabled children.
But with growing demand for quality care for complex needs, it is now a school and care home provider for 102 children and adults who all have the choice to be looked after 24-hours-a-day, 52-weeks-a-year for the rest of their lives.
The majority of the children and young people at Hollybank School are totally dependent for everyday support including communication, mobility and well-being, and many are in wheelchairs. All have severe disabilities and some have life-shortening conditions.
There is no other service in the country like it and staff are very proud of their mission: “Quality of life ... for life”.
Hightown woman Alison Howard, who is head of residential services at Hollybank, said: “We really pushed to become a care facility for life. In the past there were cases where 19-year-olds with profound disabilities were leaving school and being placed into an old people’s home or nursing home.
“You can’t believe it but it still happens in some areas. We couldn’t let that sort of thing keep happening.”
The trust’s Bradbury Centre has a hydro-therapy pool with sensory lighting and sound, a spa pool and a dry activity hall which is set up with a trampoline for rebound therapy.
There are also speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists on hand to help the pupils to develop functional communication, along with support to help them eat and drink safely and comfortably.
As well as looking after the residents’ complex medical and lifestyle needs, the trust – which employs 500 staff – also strives to provide the best quality of life they can.
At the school, on Far Common Road, the pupils can access personal leisure interests such as music, drama, craftwork and computing as well as the more traditional lessons.
And the use of SMART technology means they can work independently from teachers and take ownership of their own learning.
Creative pupils can make art by using Hollybank’s iMUSE – an interactive music streaming engine – which enables them to produce abstract pictures through sound and movement.
And the Hollybank Trust’s enrichment programme provision for 19 – 25-year-olds means students can sample a range of activities including photography, horticulture, sailing and arts and crafts.
Alison – who has worked for Hollybank for 34 years – said: “Thirty years ago there weren’t as many opportunities available and trips out would be getting on a bus, going for a ride for half an hour and then coming back – sometimes without even getting off the bus.
“Now we can go abseiling and sailing and to Florida on holiday and some are able to go on the rides at Alton Towers.
“Sometimes people with complex disabilities have their voice taken away from them.
“We want to give them back their voice and make sure they are given their independence and are able to make their own choices and do things for themselves. We want to be able to empower people and focus on what they can do – not what they can’t do.
“We give them as much independence as we can and give them the opportunity to make their own decisions – even down to taking measured risks.”
Hollybank is one of only a handful of schools to provide specialised education, therapy and care for children from 5 years of age through to 19.
Rather than being passed back over to the local authority’s adult social care system when they are 19, the trust now has a range of accommodation specifically designed for adults, including Rowan Court in Holmfirth, the Sycamores in South Kirkby, Barnsley, and now The Meadows at Roe Head which have an opening ceremony tomorrow..
The children and adults’ general day-to-day care and medical care is paid for by their own local authority – with residents being referred to Hollybank from all over the country.
The charity currently has an annual turnover of £10.5m – with the need to fundraise £650,000 for the next three years. The money will go towards new state-of-the-art facilities, building programmes, equipment and special activities.
Chief executive Pam King, who has been at the trust for 27 years, said: “Young people and adults with disabilities want to live in the community with their friends and people who know them well. For those with the most complex needs it’s often a challenge to find the right level of support.
“Hollybank has been a trail-blazer for several years now in enabling young people to look forward to quality of life for life.
“Other non-maintained schools are beginning to realise this need but often only offer more up to the age of 25.
“We work in partnership with local authorities adding value to their services for children with the most complex needs.
“Often the full packages we offer are cheaper than full support provided by the local authority.”
A new report from Baker Tilly, commissioned by the National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools (NASS) has challenged Government suggestions that local authority provision is cheaper than independent and non-maintained special schools for students with special educational needs.
The report has found the cost of non-maintained and independent special school (NMISS) provision is between £102,000 and £112,000 per student per year, compared to a cost of £118,000 for local authority education, care and health provision.
The report also suggested that NMISS schools are capable of offering better outcomes for students – including better physical, health and educational outcomes.