Friday 24 November 2017 04:45:14 PM

53 Ardglass Road Opens Its Doors For Former Downshire Residents
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THE last of the long stay patients in the Downshire Hospital, the old Victorian asylum in Downpatrick, have been successfully moved into supported living in the community through a joint partnership between Oaklee Homes Group, The South East Health and Social Care Trust and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

The Downshire opened its doors in 1869. At its peak it had 1200 patients and hundreds of staff. When patients were admitted they stayed a very long time. Some never left.

Ian Elliott, Group Chief Executive Oaklee Homes Group; Colm McQuillan, Supported Housing; Leo McCallion, Tenant, Ardglass Road; Joe O’Neill, South Eastern HSC Trust; Laura Small, Tenant, Ardglass Road; Colm McKenna, Chairman, South Eastern HSC Trust; ; Hugh McCaughey, Chief Executive, South Eastern HSC Trust.

At the official opening were, from left, Ian Elliott, Group Chief Executive Oaklee Homes Group; Colm McQuillan, Supported Housing; Leo McCallion, Tenant, Ardglass Road; Joe O’Neill, South Eastern HSC Trust; Laura Small, Tenant, Ardglass Road; Colm McKenna, Chairman, South Eastern HSC Trust;  Hugh McCaughey, Chief Executive of the South Eastern HSC Trust.

53 Ardglass Road, a building owned by Oaklee Homes Group which was previously a 20-bed residential care unit for clients with a learning disability, has been completely restructured to provide supported living accommodation for up to 18 residents in a range of dispersed settings.  In keeping with social policy,  the new properties were remodelled into three 4-bed and one 6-bed bungalows refurbished from the original residential home building.

The Chairman of the South Eastern HSC Trust, Colm McKenna, said: “This very difficult transition proved to be seamless, largely due to the support of staff who transferred with the patients, making it a true home from home.”

Ian Elliott, Oaklee Group Chief Executive added: “‘We are delighted to work in partnership with our colleagues in the NIHE and South East Trust to bring to fruition this exciting new service which will enable adults with a mental illness to live more independent lives in their local community.  We wish all the new tenants every best wish for many happy years in their range of new homes”

Following comprehensive assessments, 18 patients were identified as being suitable for the new 24 hour supported living environment in the community.

The residential centre accomodating the clients from the former Downshire Hospital.

The residential centre accomodating the clients from the former Downshire Hospital.

Prospective tenants, families and staff worked together to ensure a smooth transition, while ward staff and occupational therapists prepared the tenants to do everyday things like shopping, cooking, managing money and catching a bus- skills lost during their long stay in hospital.

The tenants were closely involved in planning their colour schemes and choosing furnishings for their new home.

Over the past 25 years, we have seen a major transformation of how mental health services are provided with the impetus away from hospital based treatment. This change of direction has released resources to develop more mental health services in the community. The Bamford Review, the Supporting People Strategy and more recently Transforming Your Care have provided the drivers for change.

An interior view of the new residential centre.

An interior view of the new residential centre.

The transition from one type of care to another posed a huge challenge for those experiencing severe and enduring mental illness. For many, Ward 29 in the Downshire had been their home for 15 years where they lived and ate their meals together, slept in large dormitories and shared bathrooms. The new type of living would mean increased independence for tenants and a “home of their own”

Ardglass Road is the result of positive inter- Departmental and collaborate working between Oaklee Homes Group, the South East Health and Social Care Trust and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. £534K funding was provided by Oaklee Homes Group for the capital build and the remaining revenue funding was provided by the Trust and NIHE.

Tenants are still settling into their new homes but initial evaluation shows a significant increase in the wellbeing of the new tenants.