This journal article presents the findings from an evaluation of a project involving the move from hostel style accommodation to supported independent living for more than 300 people with mental health needs or a learning disability.
The purpose of this paper is to present results from an evaluation of the experience of a move to independent living for people with mental health needs or a learning disability. The discussion focuses on the shift in organisational culture from providing care within a hostel setting to supporting people in their own tenancies.
The evaluation was underpinned by a participatory action research design. A total of ten co‐researchers with experience of using services or as carers were recruited. Qualitative data was obtained from “before” and “after” interviews with residents, staff and relatives.
Widespread satisfaction was expressed with people’s new homes. Many residents were found to be increasingly independent. There was some evidence of concerns regarding the pace and process of change and the introduction of new practices to promote independence.
The timing of the evaluation limited the opportunity for comprehensive “before” and “after” data collection. The involvement of co‐researchers required considerable time and support although the experience of those involved was positive.
Learning from this evaluation emphasises the importance of support and preparation for staff as well as residents, in moving from hostel to independent living.
This study highlights the advantages of a participatory design in evaluating a major change in service delivery.
This paper raises important issues about organisational change. It contributes to wider debates regarding the implementation of personalisation and recovery‐focused agendas.