Researching the Move to Independent Living

An Evaluation of the Leeds Independent Living Project

In the UK there has been a strong policy drive towards achieving greater social inclusion for people with mental health needs and learning disabilities. This includes increased choice and control and participation in the community – in education, employment and training, and also in relation to accessing healthcare services, leisure opportunities and housing. The central importance of appropriate housing in promoting social inclusion for people with mental health needs and learning disabilities has been recognised by a number of Government policies. For both service user groups, there is a focus by Government policy on developing appropriate supported independent housing.

Between 2009 and 2011, in the city of Leeds, more than 300 people with learning disabilities and mental health needs moved from nine learning disability hostels and four mental health hostels in to small-scale supported independent living accommodation in 39 neighbourhoods in Leeds. This initiative was provided under the UK Government’s PFI, managed by Progress Care Housing Association, with care and support continuing to be provided by staff employed by Leeds City Council.

Through a partnership between Progress Care Housing Association, Leeds City Council and Leeds Metropolitan University, supported by the National Lottery’s Big Lottery Fund, we carried out a 3-year multi-site evaluation of the Leeds Independent Living Project.

The research aimed to assess the impact of the move on people’s lives and the extent to which the move affects levels of social inclusion/community integration and independence.
participatory research

A participatory approach to evaluation

A participatory approach was taken with a particular focus on the participation of those directly affected by the changes brought about by the ILP. With training and support, eight ‘co-researchers’ worked alongside two professional researchers, and were involved in all aspects of the research design and implementation.


A quantitative measure for assessing social inclusion was designed and administered before and after the moves, in combination with qualitative data collected from semi-structured interviews with service users, interviews and focus groups with staff and family carers. There were interviews/group discussions with 53 residents, 41 support staff, 20 managers, 17 family carers and 6 staff from other agencies involved in the planning or delivery of the ILP. Additional methods include use of photography to guide interviews, reflective diaries and art.

Achieving impact​

The research findings were presented and discussed with key stakeholders within a series of Action Learning Sets with an independent facilitator with the aim of engaging stakeholders in the process as the research progressed. In this way lessons learnt could be fed directly into practice. The research team produced two DVDs, one documenting the participatory research process and one about social inclusion and independent living. The DVDs were distributed to support staff and service users to support practice around independent living and social inclusion. There were also several presentations at seminars and conferences by the research team.

Award winning research​

This research received two awards – the TPAS ‘Excellence in Working Together’ award from a shortlist of six at the Northern Region TPAS Awards (2013) and the LaingBuisson Independent Specialist Care Award in the Supported Living Category (2014).

award winning research
award winning evaluation
award winning research

Conference Participation

The research team gave several presentations about the research project. These included:

Leeds Met University