Where did we come from?
Support for people with learning disabilities and / or mental health needs is a lot different now than it was around 20 years ago. The public perception as recently as the 1990′s, was that this group of people could never live fulfilling lives outside of an institution. It was this perception that health care managers were confronted with, when they strove to implement Care in the Community in the early 1990′s. The NHS made the decision to work closely with third sector, value-led, not-for-profit organisations in transforming the way in which support was provided for these people. In the process, lives were transformed.
Throughout the 1980′s, patients had been gradually discharged from institutions, so by 1990 only small numbers of people with complex needs and challenging behaviour remained in North West hospitals.
There were nine health districts in the Mersey region, almost all of which had their own long-stay psychiatric hospitals. Efforts were made to move people to the Merseyside community and Mersey Regional Heath Authority awarded a grant of £120,000 over three years to establish a charitable care provider that would focus on services for people with challenging needs and behaviours. For those people still in institutional care, simply because other care providers felt unable to respond to their needs, this provided a real opportunity for a transformation in their quality of life and in January 1992 Alternative Futures Group was launched, gaining charitable status in February of the same year.
The underlying principle then, as now, is that people with learning disabilities or mental health needs have the right to lead a ‘normal’ and fulfilling life within their communities and be treated with dignity and respect.
This partnership between the NHS and the independent not-for-profit sector set the tone for a new era of working together to achieve appropriate support for some of the most vulnerable people in society.
AFG and beyond…
Our first service was in Liverpool. Commissioned by Liverpool Health Authority, the service provided support for people with complex mental health needs. There soon followed several new contracts with Cheshire Health Authority, to provide for the closure of Cranage Hall Hospital and others; working in partnership with the former St Helens, Knowsley, Warrington and Wigan Health Authorities.
By December 1997, we supported 342 people throughout the North West, usually within small registered homes.
Now, we employ around 2500 people who provide support for approximately 900 individuals, spanning the length and breadth of North West England. We are now recognised as a major provider of high quality, professional health and social care services. “Our vision and values are focussed on putting the people we support in control of their lives and enabling positive things to happen. Our growing partnership with the NHS and local authorities is helping to make this happen.” Neil Campbell, AFG Chief Executive Officer.