What makes a house a home?

I’ve moved house!

I’ve finally moved house!

God! It’s been a long old slog. The house went on the market last September, has been under offer since April this year and I finally moved in just over a week ago. Phew! The relief!

It’s all been very stressful, for the usual house selling/buying reasons, but it’s been very emotional too because this was a home I’d lived in for 22 years. It’s the home where I lived with Bob and where our children grew up. It’s also the place where he died! So many memories, so many happy times and extraordinarily sad ones too.

In truth it’s never really felt like home since Bob died but I loved that old place and it was a massive wrench to leave it. The girls were upset I was going too – hard to leave your childhood home whatever the circumstances.

I’ve been in my new home for a week or so now. It felt very odd waking up somewhere new with all my possessions around me but, it’s starting to feel like home and I think I’ll be happy here. (I’ll be happier when I get the heating fixed but it’s a minor issue really compared with all the stuff breaking in my old house.)

I’ve thought a lot about what makes a house a home, not least because while in the midst of waiting to hear whether I’d exchanged contracts and planning removals etc. I was running training for OXFSN. We are working with the brilliant My Life My Choice on our joint Quality Checkers project.

We are really WP_001442excited about this project and the best bit about it is it involves family carers and people with learning disabilities (‘experts by experience’) working together to check the quality of supported living services in Oxfordshire. The training was done jointly and it was great to see everyone working together with the same aims and values.


The first exercise we did in the training was to ask the team – what makes your house a home? And what makes a house not a home?

While everyone came up with similar comments, like a home being warm and safe and it being clean and comfortable, what struck me most was some of things the different things that the experts by experience came up with.

While family carers talked about having a nice garden and having space to relax the ‘experts by experience’ talked about – “living with people I  know and care about me”, “decorating my own room”,  “choosing when I want to do something”, “having my own key” and “choosing when I get up and go to bed”

I guess what upset me most about this was that these are all things that most of us take for granted. How can it really be home without those very basic things? Yet, for learning disabled people they need to be clearly spelt out to others.

I was so excited to get the keys to my new home and even though I had trouble with some of the modern locks and struggled to find out which key was for which door it wouldn’t have been my home without them. I hope everyone we visit has their own key (even if they can’t use it themselves)

The sad fact too is that most learning disabled people don’t choose who they live with. They get ‘placed’ where there is a convenient ‘bed space’. While efforts are often made to ensure there is the right match of people, we all know that you don’t really know whether you’re going to be able to live together until you actually live together. Ask anyone who has flat shared or moved in with a partner! For most of us, if it doesn’t work out, we can move out. But, learning disabled people have to rely on others –social workers, commissioners and the powers that be to make those decisions. And, it’s not always that simple! Funding comes into play and funding is in short supply as we all know!

When I looked for where I wanted to move too, it was my choice where I went. Obviously there were financial restrictions but even so I based my choice on what was right for me – good transport links and friends nearby. A downstairs loo for G when he visits and enough space for the kids to all stay when they come to visit. I didn’t get everything I wanted and had to make some compromises as we all do, but the basics were there and I was happy with my choice. And, even though being alone was something I’d had forced on me because Bob died. I chose to live alone. Few learning disabled people get that choice because of financial constraints, so getting the right match of people living together is even more important. In saying that if we really are promoting equality if someone really wants or needs to live alone then that choice should be offered too.

When G moved into his own home we felt that the people he lived with was the most important part of his support arrangements. It’s the first thing we looked at and agreed on. G likes living in a busy home and it’s important to him to have people around him and I’m happy to say that, through person centred planning and good matching he’s living with people that we felt he would have chosen were he able to tell us himself. Even when someone who originally moved in decided to leave the Provider took their time making sure the new housemate was a good match. It took almost a year but it was worth it. It’s worked well. They involved all the families too, just as they should!

Our Quality Checkers will be visiting people’s homes (with their permission). They are going to be looking at the quality of their lives and checking whether they really have choice and control over how they live and who they live with. Our eyes and ears are our best tools but we will be basing our observations on the REACH standards for supported living

  1. I choose who I live with
  2. I choose where I live
  3. I have my own home
  4. I choose how I am supported
  5. I choose who supports me
  6. I get good support
  7. I choose my friends and relationships
  8. I choose how to be healthy and safe
  9. I choose how to take part in my community
  10. I have the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens
  11. I get help to make changes in my life

All pretty basic stuff really but it will be interesting to see how much these standards are followed and applied. And, what evidence is available to support what we see and hear. Our checkers all have a clear idea what good quality support looks like and whether somewhere will have that homely feel. We can’t wait to get started!

I’ll let you know how we get on! But, in the meantime you might like our hear this brilliant song by Open Future Learning, called the ‘F word’ – it’s quickly becoming our Quality Checkers Anthem


The Quality Checkers project (a pilot) came about because of the deaths of Connor Sparrowhawk and Nico Reed and concerns raised by CQC about some learning disability supported living services in the county. Families and people with learning disabilities have been understandably worried and concerned about quality so this pilot has been funded by Oxfordshire County Council. We’ve also had the opportunity to speak to local Providers about what we’ll be doing and how we’ll be doing it. They welcomed the project, which should add another layer of checks to go alongside their own quality monitoring and that of CQC.

We are looking forward to getting started and feeding back our findings and we will keep you posted via the My Life My Choice  and OXFSN websites.


About Oxfordshire Family Support Network

Oxfordshire Family Support Network (OxFSN) is a not-for-profit organisation run by and for family carers of people with learning disabilities – both children and adults. Oxfordshire Family Support Network (OXFSN) was set up in 2007 by family carers who wanted to use their experience to help others in the same situation, based on our belief that family carers are experts by their lived experience.
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6 Responses to What makes a house a home?

  1. Great blog and excellent points made about the reality of “living in your own home” for many disabled people. I raise a virtual glass to your new, happy home where making lasting great memories can begin from now. X

  2. Tim Owers says:

    The unique nature of OXFSN Quality Checkers must be a step in the right direction. In bringing their unique knowledge and experience to the fore can only help ensure a consistently high quality of supported living in Oxfordshire.
    What does make a house a home? For most people very similar answers could be expected, but for people with learning disabilities a safe independence must come pretty near the top of the list. With the right guidance and support, a fulfilling and more enjoyable life (essentially the REACH standard) could and should be had by all those who need it.
    Best of luck to you all.

  3. liz@jesslinworld says:

    If all the commissioners would read this blog they might really understand.I’m pleased that you were able to move at last and are happy in your new home.

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