The best and worst decisions I’ve made: Adam Penwarden

For Adam Penwarden joining Turning Point provides an opportunity to create services that reflect people with learning disabilities’ true potential

The Best

My best work-related decision was to move into a role dedicated to working with people with a learning disability. Although I worked in this area as a divisional director at charity United Response from 2005, two months ago I joined Turning Point as director of learning disability services, as demand for its specialised services is increasing.

People with a learning disability have such huge potential and with the appropriate care and support can be in control of their lives and make a valuable contribution to their local community. Working in two very different organisations, both committed to working with people in creative and imaginative ways, has really opened my eyes to what can be achieved.

The growth of personal budgets and self-directed support has meant that organisations such as Turning Point have to think very differently about how we work and what we offer. With the number of adults with a learning disability set to increase to more than one million by 2021 we need to be able to develop services that are personal, flexible and offer good value to meet that demand. This is Turning Point’s vision and I am excited to be a part of this.

The Worst

What turned out to be the worst decision I made at work was initially made in good faith. I was managing a large area, and one of our supported housing projects was clearly struggling. The building was too small, the staff were disillusioned, the families and carers of the people we supported were unhappy with the service we were providing and the funders and regulators were unconvinced about us as a provider. On top of all that the service was losing money.

I felt that with a bit of extra support we would be able to turn things around and carry on running the service. It limped on for nearly two years, until everyone involved felt exhausted.

I now know that we should have had the courage to acknowledge it wasn’t working and that the best thing to do was to close the service down. When we did reach that point, it felt like a failure, but actually turned out to be the best outcome for the people we were supporting. They all moved on to better accommodation, the staff were offered other jobs, and the house was put to another use.

Adam Penwarden is director of learning disability services for Turning Point, a social business providing services for families and communities with complex needs across England and Wales

This article is published in the 5 November 2009 edition of Community Care magazine under the headline ‘We have to think very differently about how we work’ 

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