Any community needs a base. People with severe learning disabilities, autism and complex needs are among the most socially excluded groups in our society. At present their needs are not understood or provided for through mainstream activities.
A regular and familiar environment (be it work, study or social) is how most of us develop friendships, develop a sense of belonging, identity, social networks, friendships and personal growth, confidence and self esteem as well as skills and knowledge and a collective voice.
The opportunity to be surrounded by regular and familiar people, environment and routines is all the more important for people who have additional cognitive, communication and emotional impairments. In a small scale environment where everyone knows everyone and is valued and people can build relationships, it is amazing what they can achieve and it is also amazing what those who want to share in their lives can gain. For family carers it provides a focus for mutual support and the possibility of modelling to other organisations how to run accessible and inclusive activities.
The building at 96-98 Shoot up Hill, Camden, NW2 has been the base of a community for 25 years or so, and People's Centre has developed from that group. It is a building everybody loves, of a traditional London type, and as such very flexible; which makes a statement of matter of fact about inclusion for all in that it has a domestic appearance rather than that of an institutional building. We aim to carry out a few simple adaptations – to create one single large hall and a "changing places" bathroom.
The building is composed of two adjoining traditional London 2-storey properties with a wonderful garden space at the rear and parking for 3 minibuses at the front. There are 15 rooms, 6 bathrooms (4 accessible), 2 kitchens and a recent lift. It is well served by public transport.
As well as working with other organisations to develop a consortium of sharing the building, the board has worked with other family carer groups interested in developing a range of options to secure the building ranging from a lease from the council to buying the building.