Case Study – Living to Learn
Like so many people looking to start their own business, Jen had a good understanding of her market, she knew the people, she knew the issues, she had the experience and she had the qualifications, but she had no idea how to start a business.
Sometimes the answers come from the most unexpected conversations, and it was in fact Jen’s nail technician who suggested she got in touch with The Business Factory.
So Jen signed up for a workshop, run by The Business Factory, about starting a business.
There were about 15 people at the presentation and despite the numbers Jen did not feel lost in the crowd, in Jen’s own words, it absolutely fantastic, it was incredibly informative and Paul Brown , who lead the presentation was incredibly motivating.
I came out of Paul’s presentation thinking I can actually do this and Living to Learn was no longer just a pipe dream.
One of the biggest fears for parents of young adults with special educational needs is what happens after education.
There’s great support while they are in education, but once they leave, typically at the age of 19, there was very little there for them. There was no more support, nothing to help them integrate themselves into society.
They needed something for the long term, they needed routine; if they don’t use their skills they lose their skills
Living to Learn helps young adults with special educational needs, to live more independently, whether that’s on their own or in assisted living.
Our clients use our services to learn new skills and build on the skills they have; Day-to-day living skills such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting, IT and using public transport, as well as social skills, and employability skills.
We have custom built areas to allow our clients to test and develop their skills.
This includes a kitchen set up, a bedroom set up, an IT and work area as well as a sensory room and other leisure facilities, such as a pool table and games consoles.
Our clients can stay with us up to the age of 30. They visit 1 to 4 days per week, with a yearly review of the programme to ensure that they are getting the skills they need.
We run accredited programmes, but we also have clients who simply pop by one day a week to work on their social skills. Indeed the starting point is to meet with a potential client and their carers to put together a tailored program which is reviewed every year.
Jen set herself the target of being in set-up by September, in line with the academic year, but there was a lot to do. Jen had to look for premises, recruit staff and source a wide range of resources.
Jen and Paul began meeting on a monthly basis as they started work on the details
There were so many things I realised I needed to know and Paul at The Business Factory was always there to help, providing hand-on support and signposting us elsewhere when he couldn’t help directly (The Business Factory always seem to know someone who can help).
Indeed if ever I had have a wobble, if I ever hit a brick wall in some way, he was there.
After every meeting I’d feel inspired, I’d feel back on track, full of confidence, indeed if it wasn’t for The Business Factory I don’t think I would’ve started my business.
Another of the issues we were trying to address in particular with regards to assisted-living, is that carers can often over care, they can over support. They come with the best intentions but they can smother their clients.
We build our clients up so they are confident to make their own choices and discuss their choices with their carer.
This stops the carer from taking over, albeit not intentionally.
Indeed carers often find it hard to let go, but by working with the individual on their independence, we give the carer the confidence they can step back and let the individual blossom on their own.
We started with a big open day, running presentations to social workers, to teachers, to colleges, all of which could offer potential clients to our business. It was a very successful day and in September 2019 we started with our first clients.
Back then it was just the 2 of us and 2 clients, but now we’ve got 17 clients, 2 full-time staff and 2 part times stuff in addition to myself. And we have three new clients due to start in June when they will be leaving college.
To date the feedback has been fantastic.
A great number of our clients are autistic so they need routine. Their behaviour can be quite challenging at times, indeed we had one client who was quite closed when he first came to us; he wouldn’t socialise and would often act inappropriately.
He is now working happily with his peers, he has said that he enjoys coming and has learnt a lot of new skills that are helping to become more and more independent.
He is making a lot more of his own choices, he’s making his bed, makes cups of tea and helps with cooking. It’s massive progress (and there’s been no negative behaviour for the last three months, which is a bonus).
And we are continuing to add to the skills that we are helping our clients develop. Indeed, we have the opportunity to extend our facility into the adjoining units and further add to the services we offer, with painting and decorating, joinery, horticulture and upcycling all being considered for the future.
Find out more about the great work of Living to Learn NE at their Facebook page.