Abilities Development

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Abilities Development's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Abilities Development is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Highlighting best practice
Executive Director Karen May
An excursion to the Natural
History museum
Abilities Development offer a range of practical and
enjoyable activities to young people with disabilities.
Having expanded from providing day services, they
now have a residential home and offer respite support. More
recently, they have begun to develop their own training
programmes for incoming staff to ensure that they all adhere
to their central principles of personal engagement and the
provision of exciting learning pursuits. Karen May established
the company in 2011 and has overseen its rapid growth.
After working with young people with a range of disabilities for over 20 years,
I decided to establish my own beyond school service for young adults with
disabilities. As a qualified special needs teacher, I felt that I had the necessary
expertise to help to improve the standard of care in my local area. The company
began trading in 2011, initially operating out of a church hall, providing care to
three individuals. Since that time, we have grown exponentially. At the beginning
we only offered day services, offering a range of fulfilling activities for young
people, which helped to improve their quality of life and develop their social skills.
In 2013, one of the parents of our clients requested that we establish a residential
home to help support their daughter’s needs. Following our registration with the
CQC, we were able to establish this residence. Much like other aspects of our
business, this too has developed rapidly and we have now reached full capacity.
Beyond this more permanent home, we also offer respite services for parents or
carers who need to spend some time away. This service covers both short-term and
long-term residencies. This also proved hugely popular and we have now had to
instigate waiting lists in order to cope with the high level of demand.
»Executive Director: Karen May
»Founded in 2011
»Based in Wembley
»Services: Day activities and
residential support for young
people with disabilities
»No. of employees: 25
Abilities Development
We have also begun to offer outreach
services, providing care and support
to individuals in their own homes and
in the community. We currently work
in the boroughs of Ealing and Brent.
We had previously made our services
available in other London boroughs
but were forced to scale down because
of the high level of demand for our
Developing practical skills to
avoid future neglect
I strongly believe in the necessity of the
development of our clients. Coming
from an educational background,
I have experienced what can be
achieved with a high level of support
and encouragement. Unlike many
other services, we always strive to keep
our activities fresh and original, as
often programmes can be routine and
soon become mundane. We always
strive to keep these programmes
practical and ensure that they help to
develop the skills of our clients. This
ranges from cooking tasks to making
products such as wheat bags. These
activities cover the entire production
process, from design through to
planning and creation. We always
endeavour to incorporate numeracy
and literacy skills to try and establish a
rounded learning experience.
We also try and make these
activities as applicable to everyday
life as possible. This can include the
preparation of meals, which help our
clients gain everyday skills. People
with disabilities are often unfairly
stereotyped and the tasks that they can
engage in are subsequently restricted.
If our members are able to perform
them, they are at a far lower risk of
being neglected as they can become
more independent.
We often work with individuals who
have been refused service from other
providers, often due to perceived
behavioural problems. We find,
however, that these issues can be
very easily resolved. We set out a clear
standard of expectation for behaviour
and we have found that this causes
an almost immediate change in their
conduct. Across our services, we create
the frameworks and opportunities
for our clients to express themselves.
We pride ourselves on equipping our
clients with skills for life, which they
can continue to develop even if they
move on from us.
The creations of our
If our members
are able to
perform them,
they are at a far
lower risk of
being neglected
as they can
become more
Highlighting best practice
This commitment to providing our
clients with mainstream experiences
extends to our holiday programmes.
Beyond our daily activities, we
often organise large trips to various
destinations. Instead of renting specific
accommodation, we always endeavour
to book ourselves into hotels to try and
further integrate our members into
day-to-day life.
Better training is urgently
Perhaps the biggest challenge we
face is sourcing staff of a high calibre,
who fulfil our requirements. I firmly
believe that care should go beyond
basic needs and must include social
interactions and the development of
personal relationships with each of
our members. Many staff only expect
to provide the bare minimum and this
goes against the ethos of our service.
This is often exacerbated by a
significant gap between the level of
qualification and the level of service
each recruit is able to provide. In
my opinion, such accreditations can
often be largely tokenistic and do not
correspond to the practical ability of
the person who has received them.
This issue stems from a wider problem
across the sector as training is often
undertaken without the necessary
understanding that must accompany
it. Often it seems like training has
become a box-ticking exercise rather
than a concerted and successful effort
to educate and improve the quality of
the care giver.
To try and combat this, we have
been developing our own in-house
training programmes. These have been
informed by our practical experience
and the expectation we have for
incoming staff. If these are successful,
we hope to distribute these methods
across the health and care sector.
Funding is also a perennial issue. One
of the main manifestations of this is
the flat rate of funding that is allocated
to each client. The funding system
works on a somewhat stereotypical
basis and is unable to appreciate the
difference between individuals. Even
if two of our members have roughly
the same type of disability, their exact
needs will always be unique. As a
service provider, it is hard to meet
these needs when funding is only
given in a blanket form. Beyond this,
parents and carers often rely on us to
assist them beyond our remit and so
we often absorb some of the costs that
this entails.
Looking forward, we hope to develop
our services to cope with the increased
demand. Once this is achieved, we
are confident that we will be able to
expand into the boroughs in which
we previously operated and explore
new territories. Through the ongoing
development of our own training
programmes and our insistence
on providing activities beyond the
mundane, we will be able to continue
to give our clients a truly practical and
exciting service.
This issue
stems from a
wider problem
across the
sector as
training is often
without the
that must
accompany it
Activity room purple


This article was sponsored by Abilities Development. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy