Warrington Community Living (WCL) first came into being in 1991 as a response to the closure of the ‘New Church’ hospital for people with learning disabilities in Culcheth. Through the provision of a range of residential homes across the Borough the aim of this new ‘not for profit’ organisation was to support people to live away from the large institution that for many had been their home for years.
This included Radcliffe Meadows which as a twelve bedded residential nursing home, was converted from the former Padgate Ward which had already been built just outside the hospital walls.
At the same time, Heathside our first residential home for older people in Penketh was handed into WCL’s control. Originally built by Lancashire County Council, as a result of local government boundary changes it moved to Cheshire and then to Warrington, being handed over to us as a third sector organisation as part of the reduction of local government directly provided services. As well as being a new service, we also used this building as our original administrative base.
In 2003 the ‘Supporting People’ programme was launched and as a move to greater independence many of the smaller homes for people with learning disabilities were handed over as properties to local housing associations so that the residents could become tenants in their own right. The support in these homes continued to be provided by WCL under commission from Warrington Borough Council.
2004 saw the opening of the Gateway building in Central Warrington as a hub for local third sector organisations and we moved our offices into this new facility.
In 2006 we built Heathside Mews alongside Heathside in Penketh. It was designed quite deliberately as a relatively small home focusing on the needs of older people who required additional support as a result of dementia and/or significant physically frailty.
2012 was the year that we brought a representative group of people using all of our services together to meet on a regular basis. They called themselves ‘Bespoke’, and in collaboration with the Chief Executive and one of the Trustees they supported the rewriting of our Purpose and Values and also The Promise that we make to the people we support. They also helped us to pick a new colour scheme and logo, which they called the ‘Together Symbol’.
Also in 2012, the contract for supporting people with learning disabilities in their own homes was tendered and in a very competitive exercise, much of this block tender work was awarded to two new organisations to Warrington.
Whilst a difficult loss, this gave WCL the opportunity to reconsider how it provided services and to focus on the growth of personalised budgets and truly individual services based around person centred planning and working, which is now our biggest growth area in what we call the Community Network.
In addition during this period, our learning from the work at Heathside and the Mews and the understanding we gained of the wider needs of older people beyond our homes, meant that 2013 saw us extend the Community Network into supporting older people and people with dementia in their own homes, again using very person centred approaches. This meant even when people did ultimately require residential care we could offer a continuity of support and approach, often with their own small team still supporting them.
In April 2014 - after a year of discussion and planning - we merged with Warrington Community Care, incorporating its services into WCL’s structure. As a local charity with its own twenty five year history of supporting people with enduring mental health needs, who themselves had previously merged with Warrington MIND, this meant that we could offer a fuller range of services to people requiring social care and support, regardless of the labels or categories that they had placed on them.
We now employ specialist staff including learning disability and mental health nurses and have expertise in the support of many forms of learning and physical disability, dementia and autism and long term mental health conditions and recovery approaches.
We currently support nearly 500 people in the Warrington area with the help of 270 full and part-time staff.