A second chance

Carys has blossomed from child to adult with the encouragement of a skilled team and specialist PBS and forensic mental health support. She’s looking forward to the future with optimism.

Today, Carys is a young person on the cusp of adulthood looking forward to all the possibilities that brings. This is a far cry from her situation just eight months ago when she arrived at her supported living accommodation with Achieve together near Cardiff.

Traumatic childhood events, undiagnosed autism and epilepsy had created a perfect storm for teenage Carys, and her mental health declined. Her subsequent ‘cry for help’ had tragic consequences and led to her being admitted to a secure unit in 2021.

Active listening

Due to the nature of her conviction, social workers were finding it hard to place Carys in a suitable new home when her sentence ended. Support providers were reluctant to offer her somewhere to live and be supported. Supported Living Manager, Blue, went to visit Carys and remembers: “I could see  she had a lot of potential but had experienced some tough times. Everyone deserves a second chance, and she was a child that needed to be supported to develop into an adult with a positive future.

“No-one would give her that chance. They didn’t think she could change, but I didn’t want to change her I just wanted to help her to grow up. I listened to her story. When you meet someone it’s often not the same as reading about them on paper.”

The right team

After initial assessments and with support from her Regional Manager, Blue offered Carys a room at the supported living house she manages. Blue says: “We knew it was not going to be easy for Carys. There were sleepless nights, but we had the right team, backed up with the right meetings with multi-agency partners.”

Assessing the risks, team members completed specialist training to support Carys through the period of her community protection order. She was also greeted warmly by the other person living at the home, Mark. “They bonded straight away, comparing stories the moment they met,” says Blue. “You couldn’t ask for a better relationship. They play board games and even had Christmas dinner together.”

When another new person moved into the house a few months after Carys, they also struck up a friendship and enjoy sharing a joke and laugh.

Specialist support

With assistance from in-house PBS Practitioners and forensic mental health specialists, Carys has made great strides. Being treated as an adult and being listened to has empowered her to mature and take more control of her emotions.

A focus on her epilepsy medication has also had a significant impact. Initially, Carys was diagnosed with a drug-resistant epilepsy. It is no longer drug-resistant and she has been seizure-free for more than 3 months.

Chris Rees, Team manager at the local authority responsible for Carys, commented: “I was impressed by the multi-disciplinary team approach and the willingness to work with an individual who posed  risks to herself and others. They were not afraid to take on something other providers would not.”

Looking to the future

Now 18, Carys has applied for college and her support in the community has been reduced to 1-1. “She’s kept on track and is now wanting to do more things. We are currently risk assessing a goal of hers to do a parachute jump,” says Blue, with obvious pride. “She is busy all the time, from rock climbing to trampolining, and is learning life skills such as using the washing machine and ironing.”

Equine-assisted therapy, in particular, has helped Carys with her mental health and behaviour. She visits nearby stables once a week, mucking out and grooming horses and taking them for a walk on a leading rein.

Shortly, the three housemates, with their support team, will be moving to a new property in the city. They are choosing their bedrooms and wall paint colours with obvious enthusiasm. In due course, Carys also hopes to return to live nearer her home town.

Carys says: “I’m so glad they took a chance on me. The day Blue came and spoke to me, I didn’t think she would come back as no-one else ever did.

“I love living here even though I miss home. I can’t wait to move into the new house.”