Celebrating 30 years

The roots of the care that organisations like Vibrance provide go deep, and the effects of how that care is delivered can resonate down the years.

At this time of year – often a period of reflection – I find myself casting my mind back some three decades, to what seems like a different world.

In 1989, the national programme of closures of the old Victorian Psychiatric and Mental Handicap Hospitals was well underway. In Redbridge, that included Claybury and Goodmayes Psychiatric Hospitals and Leytonstone House Mental Handicap Hospital.

I know first-hand – having worked in Leytonstone House for eight years in the 80s, and having visited Claybury and Goodmayes on many occasions – that they were terrible places to live. That’s not to say that all residents were unhappy, but they lived in a clinical environment on shared wards with very little choice over the food they ate, the clothes they wore, who they lived with or which staff supported them. Privacy was at a premium and there was little or no contact with the local community.

This situation sparked a move away from institutional living to community living. Many small voluntary organisations were set up, one of which was our own. It is humbling to think it is now Vibrance’s turn to celebrate 30 years from when we were ‘born’ as Redbridge Community Housing Limited in 1989.

I am hugely proud to say that we still manage the five original care homes established for people moving out of Claybury and Leytonstone House and some of those original residents are still living there.

From the early days when we provided services solely in Redbridge those roots spread and prospered, and we now manage care homes and provide short-breaks, day services and outreach services to around 350 people across 20 Local Authority/CCG areas. In addition, we support around 3,500 people who have chosen to receive a Personal Budget.

When I reflect on the principles and values that drive what we do, I am struck by how they contrast with my reflections on institutional life. Fundamental to the way we support people is:

  • Service Users having choice around their day to day lives. This includes shopping, cooking, the people they live with, the staff who support them, how their room is decorated and where they go on holiday
  • Service Users having control and being supported to make their own decisions and set their own aspirations and life goals
  • Service Users being at the centre of all Vibrance does. We achieve this by having service users on our Committees and as Trustees on our Board. includes

We do not pretend that these principles are unique to Vibrance, nor that we cannot learn and get better, and I am also proud about how we work in honest collaboration with many other organisations who have the same principles at their core.

The roots we laid down all those years ago have flourished – from RHCL to Vibrance……30 years and counting.