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 The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister