Two shopping trolleys, one purple and one pink next to each other on a wooden floor.
What we have learnt about home

In this blog, we would like to share the first look at our findings. We’ve read through the interviews, looked at the participants’ photos, and we’ve tried to write down the main things we’ve learnt. We’re calling these our insights.

The things we’ve learnt have led to more questions about how staff can help people with learning disabilities feel more at home… 


Moving in

When people were moved into a new home for reasons beyond their control it was hard for them to feel at home in their new place.  The feelings of loss and dislocation could last for some time.


Oh, so then the house closed down. So you didn’t want to leave that house? 
I didn’t want to. 
Were you happy there? 
Yes. It was my home. 
What made it feel like home? 
I was very comfortable. I was just happy there. You know, I had the freedom and everything.


How can we help people feel at home in a new home, and move on from mourning their old home?


Space and ownership

Homes have to work out how to give staff a space to do their work. Sometimes it can feel like they are ‘taking over’ communal spaces.

Having a staff office means that staff’s work is sometimes ‘out of sight’ and private. But this can mean that part of the home is out of bounds for residents.


Photo of poster on an office door which say in symbols and capital letters 'This office is staff only. Please knock and wait for staff to answer. Please move away from door.'

Woman sat at kitchen table in plain kitchen looking through a folder.


How can we deal with the tensions of the home being a workplace for staff at the same time as being a home for people living there?


Rules and routines

In homes where residents had more individualized support, they had more variety and spontaneity in their lives. For others, times for personal care and mealtimes depended on staff shift patterns, and any social events outside the home took a lot of planning.

Pin board covered with notices, leaflets, advice, letters, a mostly blank calendar. On a bright yellow wall.


I think we have a perception that all people with learning disabilities love routine when in reality maybe we love the routine of it all.


How can we make sure that rules and routines are really necessary and are for the benefit of the people living there?


Roles and responsibilities

Residents expressed a sense of pride when they talked about preparing food or cooking meals themselves. Some staff tried to involve residents in housework as well, but not all residents were keen to do this, and staff did not always have time to address this.

Some residents and staff had got used to a ‘hotel’ model of care, where staff took care of all domestic tasks.

Utility room, with washing machine, hoover, indoor clothes drier frame.


He will stand there when staff are cleaning his room for him, but he can’t do it, because all of them, even to do the wash, you have to … help them with everything.


How might we foster residents’ involvement in domestic tasks?



Ongoing connection through visits and phone calls was vital to residents and family members. However, staff did not always show that they understood the importance of this. Some family members were nervous about raising concerns about the support their relatives were receiving.


We have a routine we’re going to see him every Saturday afternoon now. But like we could just, we could just turn up if we want to.


I feel like the bad parent that always has to say, well, no, she’s not like that and people will always dismiss me…’you would say that because you’re a parent…and you’re just over concerned’.


How can we make sure that family members feel welcome and part of the life of the home?



Friendship, companionship and shared interests and activities with people they lived with was a crucial aspect of ‘feeling at home’ for residents.

Residents did not feel at home when they were picked on by people they lived with or could not trust them to respect their space or belongings.

Two shopping trolleys, one purple and one pink next to each other on a wooden floor.


How can we foster good relationships between residents and support them to resolve any interpersonal problems?


Self-expression and personal space

Residents’ bedrooms could be a haven of comfort and familiarity and be a place where they expressed their personality and interests.

Individuals with higher support needs did not always get the help they needed to make their bedrooms a space for self-expression.

Photo of bed with football bedcovers against a blue wall. There are shelves either side of the bed with lots of things on them.

Photo of bed with purple cover against a blue wall with one Spice Girls poster on it.


How can we make sure that residents’ bedrooms reflect their personality and interests?

Community and neighbourhood

Some residents, through their own efforts or with support from family and staff, really felt connected to their neighbourhood and the area where they live.

Others seemed to have little sense of connection to their neighbourhood and a few met with negative responses from their neighbours.


Do you ever talk to your neighbours here?
You don’t, no. Okay. All right. Do they know who you are? Do they know your name?
They don’t know who I am.


Looking out through net curtains on a window to a sunny street with buildings and cars.


How can we help residents and staff feel part of the local community?


What now?

We are now using these insights and questions to design a checklist and toolkit. We are doing this in our codesign group which is made up of care home staff, designers, experts by experience, researchers, family members and therapists. We’ll tell you more about this in the next blog post. We would love to know what you think about our insights – get in touch and let us know.