AN INNOVATIVE scheme has seen people with learning disabilities trained to act as “citizen checkers” and report on residential care services.

Amanda Frost, Anthony Giles and Shaine Singer have visited 11 residential homes so far and questioned 38 people on whether they are happy with the care and support they are receiving.

The people they talk to tend to be people with moderate to severe learning disabilities who receive funding from Bournemouth council to live in a residential care home.

The project, run by Bournemouth People First, was first set up to work with people moving on from NHS hospital units. But soon other residential homes and care providers started asking them to check their services and they are now seen as an important way of helping to ensure vulnerable residents are safe, happy and well cared for.

Anna Harris, of Bournemouth People First, said: “What’s important is the people doing the checks have had similar experiences to the people living in the homes. They are people who know how it feels to live somewhere like that.

“The council will do checks to make sure the homes are doing what the council is paying them to do but we look at it from the point of view of the individual and find out whether they way they are living and the way they are supported is right for them.

“From the residents I would say we have had really good feedback. People really enjoy the speaking up groups, they like the chance to have their say. They also like the questionnaires and the questions we ask.

“But we’ve had mixed feedback from homes, we have had a couple of homes that have been very reluctant to support residents to take part.”

Brian Langridge, business and operational support manager at the council, is keen to encourage as many homes as possible to use the service.

“We certainly expect residential homes to have an external valuation of their service and we tell them that Bournemouth People First can provide that,” he said..

“This is yet another way of reassuring ourselves that people living in residential care with a learning disability feel they can talk to someone about any concerns and they can be sorted out.”

Team's role is making sure that residents are ehappy

THE team of three, who are supported by Leighton White and Anna Harris at Bournemouth People First, hold speaking up sessions at the homes they visit, where residents can speak freely about any general issues of concern.

A citizen checker then returns to speak to people individually about things like whether they have enough choice and control in their lives, whether they are getting good support with money, whether they are using day opportunities that meet their need and, crucially, whether they would know who to talk to if they felt unsafe.

They then report back to the council with their findings and any recommended improvements.

After one inspection revealed that several residents felt scared by the behaviour of some of the other residents, the council made arrangements to move them to a home with that had more suitable mix of people.

Amanda Frost said: “It’s nice to see people happy in their homes.

“I enjoy doing the citizen checks and we’ve learned a lot as we go along.”

And Anthony Giles said: “I find it very interesting meeting people and talking to them.”