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A Village Called Sienna

September 11, 2017

This week sees the opening of a new “autism village” in North Shields. It’s very much, of its kind or as the company’s spokeswoman says, “the first of its kind in this area”.

Before reading on, have a look at the village and see what you think:

“Village” is interesting framing. From the advert, it doesn’t look much like St Mary Mead. From the outside, it looks very much what it is – a converted building. But call it a village and announce that it’s got a shop and a cafe and the reader is manoeuvred to images of tea and scones at the vicarage and morris dancing on the green. Complex needs solved with quaint solutions. In fact, I heard the design team called in Rupert Brooke.

It’s 2017, so needless to say, “independence” is plugged big time. All 17 residents will live independent lives. All individual needs will be catered for. Independence will be alive and kicking in the communal dining room.

A few questions to the owners:

1. Will each of the 17 residents really get the 1:1 support that you claim? Are you going to have 17 care staff on duty at all times? No pooled budgets?

2. If one of the villagers wanted to eat their meals independently of the communal dining room, will they be able to?

3. Can a villager have someone come to stay with them?

4. Can a villager go to a social event outside the village in the evenings?

5. Can family and friends visit the villager in their individual appartments?

6. If a villager is already a member of Virgin Active, can they independently continue to go there with support instead of using the in-village gym?

There are probably 100s more questions that could be asked but I could go on for hours and I probably will just to put some joy back in to a village called Sienna. Ooh yeah.

I’m pitching the idea of a new reality show – Celebrity Autism Village. 17 celebs pitching up at Sienna and anyone who doesn’t embrace the independence of the experience is gunged and sent packing.

The first cast list is: Burt Reynolds, Pat Coombs, Griff Rhys Mogg, Sean Spicer, Princess Eugenie, Zola Budd, Bobby Brown, Lester Piggot, Patti Boulaye, The Krankies, Penelope Pitstop, Bernie Flint, Skippy, Queen Latifa, Ronnie Kray and Roy Lilley.

Be warned – Ms Boulaye likes to eat her cornflakes independently.


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  1. Cathy B permalink

    Way to lump people together by providing “specialist care for people with mental illness, learning difficulties, people on the autistic spectrum, forensic background, challenging behaviours”. How ‘specialist’ can that care be?

    And wtf is ‘forensic background’ in this context? Think I’ll stay in my room.

    But if I did want to sit on a bench in that soulless quad, would I be able to? Would my 1:1 carer/warden have to share the bench, or could I ask them to go sit on another?

    This reeks of ‘pooled’ budgets. How much control would I have over my allowance? If I don’t get 100% control I’m not living independently, and the law is being breached.

    But then, I do get disco lights and a ‘treatment room’ [shudder] and the staff have spent “a long time in training to deal with all these clients” so I must be grateful they’re taking time out of their busy schedule to see me as a unit of profit.

    And I hear the Village blazers are really cool.

    • Forensic background refers to criminal justice system and offending.

      • Forensic background, aka ‘risk management’, or aversion. Often used to justify restrictive practices.

    • weary mother permalink

      There was a time that gypsies, political prisoners, homosexuals and learning disabled people – plus women and children, and many more people who only shared a faith, were all placed together; isolated away from the world and it’s conscience..

      The problem then was not the buildings and or the equipment. – the problem as now – the people who envisioned the need and then came up with the solution…..and of course – the people who carried the solution out….for others …..only.

      For pay. Just doing their job.

      Some thing – or nothing – to do with Human Rights.

      Depends on a point of view.

  2. Lisa permalink

    Mark, all of it, makes me want to smash my skull against concrete. However, I have to be positive, as my son will end up in a care facility when I am infirm / die.

  3. LizzieD permalink

    Found a CQC report on a similar facility run by the same company (I think). Twenty four residents, three care workers during the day, two at night – so no, not quite 1 to 1.

    Don’t get it. Such glossy brochures, but surely the only way to make a profit is low staffing levels or very high costs.

  4. johnpopham permalink

    I think I see a flaw in your Celebrity show, Mark, Penelope Pitstop, being a cartoon character would need an artist and a carer to be with her. Would that be allowed?

  5. It just looks characterless, the whole building including cafe and so-called sensory room, and gives a strong sense of forced living together. What possibly could be independent?
    The dark-haired woman was speaking about this development in a hollow sounding room, not a nice echoing sound, and doesn’t say anything that I could believe – I just think that she wants an income.

    Who would choose to live with people who unpredictably get very upset? That will be the biggest sensory problem – having a sensory room means nothing if you have to hear distress daily.

    CQC are supposed to limit numbers of people living together and do an inspection prior to anything opening – it would be good to see any report.

    • The cinema room looks scary. Reminds me of a prison.
      The black wipe clean chairs are revolting and depressing.

      Honestly, what is going on? Why are expert psychologists and psychiatrists not designing more normal ‘villages’ or homes with people and families?
      Where are the homely features? There should be a model to use as a reference, of a place you want to wake up in, or go back to.

    • Lisa permalink

      This is all so true. I didnt buy the dark haired woman either, or the katrina percys of this world. Seen it all before. What the hell are us parents supposed to do, or Is it really about licking bum, of those paid to care, for our loved ones, with fingers crossed that they are kind.

      • Lisa, I insisted on some basic freedoms, until they happened.
        My situations changed, after years, simply because I didn’t give up, and others are now going along with me. I’m a bit shocked and grateful at the positive change, as professionals are agreeing with me – so the service provider has no choice.
        This Sienna Village needs experts by experience who have LDs to come and inspect.

  6. Jayne knight permalink

    That’s what they used to be called. The asylums were called villages in some places. They were closed down for Gods sakes

    It’s discriminatory where the Lesbian village, the Black village, the Blonde people with blue eyes village. It’s segregating people and it’s wrong

    People cannot choose who they spend their time with. If it’s communal you’ll get little choice of shonworks with you and who eats with you. I remember one man telling me how someone spat in his dinner everyday and he put up with it for years as no one noticed. I feel sick at the thought of this. It’s a step massively backwards

  7. kate permalink

    and another question, if you live independently there, can you choose your own support or do you have to buy a “package” of support from the owners? There is nothing independent about having to have the support provided by the owners of your own home.

  8. Pauline Thomas permalink

    Well the powers that be are still not listening are they? Will they ever listen?

    If there was any justice left in this world I think the people making huge profits from these places should have to spend the whole of their lives in there too.

    Like Lisa I despair at it all..

    • Totally agree. Let the service provider and others live there as well. Commissioners should test it as a short break at least, and get their children to stay alone.
      The horrible look of the place is enough for residents to become the living dead.

  9. charm permalink

    Sienna village court or whatever it’s called looks boring & terribly basic inside, the living room is too small and not enough furniture for 17 residents. The library consists of two bookcase shelving cheapest by the look of it. It’s been converted cheaply for maximum profit at ‘the services users’ expense.Profit before comfort & care as per usual. Oh, and the bedrooms are disgustingly small and not at all homely. I’ll say no more………………

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