“It has changed his life and ours,” says Denise Grainger, discussing the difference that In Control has made to her 20-year-old autistic son, Ben.
Before In Control, Ben’s behaviour was described as challenging, angry and frustrated. He had been a weekly boarder at a residential college until he was 19 when staff decided they could no longer cope with him. It was then that senior social worker Alison Ward mentioned In Control to the family.
Ward says: “Through his worsening behaviour, Ben showed that he didn’t want to be at college. He wanted to be at home with his family and they wanted that too, but they also needed their own time and to work, so the challenge was to meet both their needs.”
The solution was for Ben to employ his favourite aunt Pauline, or Chick as she is known, as his personal assistant working flexible hours. Now he decides what he wants to do each day, from walking along the beach at Bognor Regis where the family lives, to quad biking, bowling, playing on his computer or spending time in the countryside with the family’s horses and dogs.
“He’s a different person,” says Ward. “He is happy to meet new people, and is far more animated and communicative.”
So much so that when people from the Department of Health visited Ben and his family as research for Independence, Well-being and Choice – which flags up In Control – he was happy to introduce them to the dogs.
Ben has even started visiting the local supermarket with his aunt, choosing and paying for things himself, which he would never have done before. “Everybody in Tesco knows him,” his mother says with a laugh.
And In Control has provided much- needed respite for Ben’s parents. “We have never had a weekend free before as Ben wouldn’t go to respite care, but now Chick often has Ben on a Sunday. It’s wonderful for us,” Grainger says.
In Control brings more opportunities for creativity. In Ben’s case, money will be spent on two of his passions – a two-seater quad bike for the road, though he will be in the passenger seat, and a digital camera.
Ward says: “In Control is about trying to be creative, person-centred and needs-led. It is not slotting people into existing services. It is true social work again.”