A Sunderland man will get the gift of independence, as he prepares to move into his first home for Christmas.
Sam March will settle into a new property at Valiant Close in Hendon just in time for the start of a new year. The 27-year-old currently lives with his mam, dad and two younger sisters, and is taking the major step of leaving home and moving out on his own. But it’s not a straightforward transition for Sam, who lives with cerebral palsy and autism, conditions that significantly impact on his mobility and ability to undertake daily activities that most people take for granted.
Sam’s home – a 2-bedroom bungalow in Hendon – has been purpose built by Sunderland City Council for people living with disabilities, meaning both the design of the home and the assistance close by, as well as assistive technology within the property itself, will enable him to live on his own with the right help in place.
Valiant Close is an award-winning scheme, recognised at a national level as an exemplar by the Association for Public Service Excellence. Built by Tolent Living on behalf of Sunderland City Council, the scheme of 17 bungalows – 16 of which are fully adapted for people with disabilities – was developed as part of the authority’s ground-breaking £59m Housing Delivery and Investment Plan (HDIP).
The HDIP sets out ambitious plans to ensure that residents have access to the homes they need as they grow older; that vulnerable residents are able to live in properties that support them to live independently for longer, in which they are supported to live happy, fulfilled lives, and that empty homes, that so often blight their community, are returned to use, creating attractive new homes for our residents.
Sam said: “As I moved through my teenage years, I began to wonder if I would ever be able to live alone with the challenges that come with my conditions.
“I’ve been talking about it and making preparations for this with my social worker and family for some time, so when the property at Valiant Close came up, and I saw it, it was just perfect.”
“Sometimes, my condition means I can get overwhelmed, so having support around me is important. My bungalow has a day centre just a minute away, so I can get help as I need it and the house itself is really accessible so I can get around easily. Stairs could be a challenge for me,” he added.
Sam will be hosting his family for Christmas dinner, and hopes to spend the festive season settling into a new independent life.
“The fact it is just down the road from my mam and dad is brilliant because it means they don’t need to worry about me, and having a resource centre on the doorstep means I can be confident that I have help available if I get overwhelmed or need assistance with some of the things that are new to me as I settle into my own house.”
Sam’s home was built in the second and final phase of the development, with the first eight bungalows completed last year, and a further nine last month. They surround Northeast Disabilities Resource Centre’s (NDRC) £1.4m Valiant Centre, which opened its doors last year. The building – which has been officially opened by Councillor Alison Smith, the Mayor of Sunderland – includes a range of spaces that are used to host activities for the 40+ people with a range of disabilities including cerebral palsy who attend it every day. It includes flexible rooms that can be used for activities, as well as treatment rooms and adaptations to support people with physical disabilities.
Councillor Smith said: “Having NDRC’s Valiant Centre right at the heart of a community of homes that are designed for those living with disabilities makes absolute sense, and it’s proof of our commitment to the most vulnerable people in Sunderland that we are investing in their future, creating vital amenities and homes that support them to lead the most fulfilling independent lives possible.
“I am thrilled to officially open this centre, and to see the final homes surrounding it spring into use.”
Sam’s home will be fitted with a range of technology that will allow him to control the heating, the blinds and the lights remotely. Sunderland City Council’s Housing Development Team have worked closely alongside colleagues in Adult Social Care to ensure the new homes they are building are specifically adapted for the residents who will live there.
Councillor Kevin Johnston, Dynamic City portfolio holder at Sunderland City Council, said: “This is about more than bricks and mortar. Our investment in homes and communities is an investment in our residents. It’s an investment in the lives they deserve to lead, that supports people to realise their vast potential, and to live independently.
“I’m pleased to see this life-changing new scheme and centre, which will do so much for so many in Sunderland, complete. It’s remarkable, the difference it will make.”
Cordelia Rumley from NDRC, said: “We’re thrilled to be declared officially open, and to celebrate a resource that will change the lives of the people who live close by and those who travel in to use the centre.
“The services we offer are lifechanging, and to see the difference we are able to make to the happiness and wellbeing of people who visit the centre, having moved to a place that is absolutely fit for purpose, has been wonderful.”
Valiant Close is one of a number of schemes that the council is leading as part of its five-year HDIP, which will deliver 193 accessible properties by 2025, as well as 210 general-needs homes – suitable for families – through conversion of empty homes across the city and 171 supported homes, designed to help people who are taking their steps towards independence or who are at risk of homelessness.