Joint winner! Darryl Chapman award for health promotion

Kitty McAvoy and her team have created a family atmosphere that embraces all forms of support including end of life care

Supporting people with profound and multiple learning disabilities who do not use words creates considerable communication challenges. However, close observation and knowledge of people supported ensures that their thoughts and feelings are understood and wishes observed.

Kitty McAvoy manages a small supported living home in Surrey  where people supported and team members are ‘like a family’. She works tirelessly to support, and advocate for, the health and wellbeing of people living there, who all have complex health needs.

Shining examples

One example of this is ‘touch passports’ which detail what touch each person likes, including hand holding and hugs. This follows research that people with disabilities do not receive touch unless a support worker is providing personal care.

When someone supported had a cancer scare Kitty proactively advocated for tests that were the least invasive while putting their health needs first. She is also actively finding a way that this person’s diet changes are managed so that, if possible, he can still taste food even though he receives his nutrition enterally.

Ethos of equity

Visiting Intensive Interaction Charity, Us in a Bus, were particularly moved by the team’s professional and compassionate care of Frank, a person at the end of his life. Anne Laney, Practice Manager of Us in a Bus, said: “Their ethos of equity and total embracement of ‘family’ – extended to include our team – is exceptional and something I have not experienced elsewhere.”

They were impressed by the way that Frank was fully included in activity in the home until the very end of his life, despite needing to spend much of his time in bed in his last few months. Activities and people migrated to his room so he was part of experiences whether he was able to participate or not. This even extended to Christmas, a favourite time of his.

Connections and inclusion

Frank was able to keep his connection and friendship with other people throughout, vital for his mental wellbeing. It was also important for the people he shared his home with. Even when he appeared unresponsive, he was afforded the same time and attention enabling the team to catch his moments of awareness. Likewise, his personal care was as meticulous as it had always been.

The empathy, presence, kindness and strong connections continued even after Frank’s death. His housemates were able to spend time in his room so that they could feel close to him. He died surrounded by the love of those he spent his days with. Everyone, including visiting practitioners, received support to process their feelings. One of the Us in a Bus team commented: “His funeral felt like a celebration of his life rather than a mourning of his death.”

Regional Manager, Sophie Layton added: “Every time I visit, I am in awe of the work Kitty does every day. There is no inequality in this home, because of Kitty.”


Darryl Chapman award for health promotion

At our 2024 Heroes Awards, Kitty was joint winner of the Darryl Chapman award for health promotion. This award celebrates passionate and innovative promotion of the emotional, physical, and psychological health of people we support.

On winning her award, Kitty said: “I met Darryl several times and know what lovely man he was so to win an award that’s in memory of him is an honour and means a lot to me.”