Earlier this year, Lifeways were looking forward to opening the doors on a brand new 18 apartment development in Chatteris called Barber Gardens, designed to provide vital homes and support for people with learning disabilities and autism looking for specialist help to live independently.

With the opening delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Lifeways opened discussions with Cambridgeshire County Council to see if there was anything they could do to help during this difficult time. With the need to free up hospital beds a priority (as outlined in the Department of Health and Social Care’s recently published ‘COVID-19 Hospital Discharge Service Requirements’) all parties were keen to work together to help alleviate the pressures on the NHS.

As a direct response to this, and in less than 3 weeks, Lifeways worked together with the owners Triple Point, Inclusion Housing CIC and Cambridgeshire County Council, to transform Barber Gardens into a rapid response accommodation unit that can be used to house vulnerable people during the pandemic. The council has taken full responsibility for the service for an initial 3-month period, with Lifeways providing all the support, operational staff and resources for those moving in.

The flexible accommodation, comprising of individual flats and bungalows, offers a real lifeline for vulnerable people who otherwise might have remained in hospital occupying urgently needed hospital beds, or for anyone requiring support and currently living with their parents who are in a high risk category and need to be shielded. It’s also perfect for any high risk individuals who may need to self-isolate as all the apartments are fully self-contained.

Lifeways worked with the local care management teams to ensure a smooth admission process into the service, and the first person, a young man with autism, moved in on Monday 20th April. Julie Douglas, the Area Manager and Autism Accredited Lead for Lifeways, has made information and support available to help people to understand the importance of keeping safe during COVID-19.

As a leading provider of supported living with over 25 years’ experience of supporting people with varied and often complex needs, Lifeways is well positioned to provide immediate support and is working closely with social workers and NHS discharge teams to move more people in by the end of the week.

Justin Tydeman, CEO of Lifeways, commented “This is a great example of how partnership working can bring about positive change in times of need. I’m incredibly proud of all our teams who have pulled together and made this resource available so quickly. We are proud to help support and shield individuals at Barber Gardens, while helping to ease the current pressure on the NHS.”

Will Oborne, Community Engagement and Development Manager for Lifeways, added “We realised that we had a fantastic facility lying idle and we wanted to take the opportunity to help where we could in the fight against COVID-19. It is remarkable that through strong partnership working between Cambridgeshire County Council and Lifeways, we have managed to create such an important facility in such a short space of time. We are very proud of our Operations Team who have done the work on the ground to make this happen.”

Will Patten, Service Director for Commissioning at Cambridgeshire County Council commented, "Everyone involved in this has been magnificent, and I want to thank Lifeways, Inclusion CIC, Triple Point and my Council colleagues for the quick thinking and hard work that has taken place to make this happen. By acting quickly and collaboratively, we have created a facility that will support vulnerable adults and free up NHS beds at a time when they are most in need."