Gravesend Learning Disability Service: a story of partnership

Published: 7th March 2024
Look Ahead has opened a fantastic new service in Gravesend, Kent, find out more about how we teamed up with our construction and grounds maintenance contractors to make it all happen.

Steps leading up to Gravesend Learning Disability Service.

Look Ahead’s Gravesend Learning Disability Service in Kent offers supported accommodation to adults who have a learning disability and complex needs. The service supports customers to live more independently within their community. Our Gravesend team support customers of different ages, but also specialise in working with 18–25-year-olds as they transition into their first home as an adult.

The two-part, activities-based service supports four residents. One section is a three-person shared home with spacious bedrooms for each customer and shared communal facilities for socialising. The other is a self-contained one-person lower ground floor flat, to support an individual to gradually settle into their new home and life with a comfortable space of their own, but with access to the communal areas as well.

The service opened to customers late last year, after months of hard work and collaboration between several Look Ahead teams – including Business Development, Planned Works, Repairs and Voids, and Facilities Management – as well as our contractors AD Construction, 1st Stop and Glendale. The lower ground floor flat, and one of the three-person service placements are now full, and the customers are thriving. The project powerfully embodies Look Ahead’s core value of partnership, and what this can achieve.

Here’s how we got there:

Private garden space for the service's ground floor flat resident.

Private garden space for the service's ground floor flat resident.

February – March 2023: Purchasing and scoping the property

After Look Ahead purchased the Gravesend property, our Business Development and Property Services Departments visited to scope the property out. As part of this, the Facilities Management Team (from Property Services) looked for landscaping solutions to provide an enclosed outdoor leisure space for the lower ground floor flat resident.

To do this, the team partnered with our grounds maintenance contractor Glendale to set up a private activity space for the customer to enjoy.

A newly refurbished kitchen at Gravesend Learning Disability Service.

May 2023: Renovation works begin

AD Construction was our main contractor and carried out a wide catalogue of renovations and refurbishments to the property to make it safe, aesthetically pleasing, and accessible. Among other works, the team renewed the flooring in several rooms and decorated throughout. They fitted a new boiler, renewed all the lights, and actioned electrical repairs as well. The team also added stop sashes to the property’s windows, and installed new steps and a pathway, with railings and handrails to support residents to come, go and get around easily.

This wasn’t all. AD completed additional specialist projects in the lower ground floor flat, converting the original kitchen into a bathroom space and installing a fresh, larger kitchen and dining space with brand new appliances. Our contractors from 1st Stop also made some alterations to the lower ground floor flat, tinting the windows to give the customer some privacy without having to close any blinds or curtains.

1st Stop are continuing to implement a range of renovations at the property, preparing one of the remaining bedrooms for a customer to move into. The works are focused on adapting the flat to meet customer safety needs, such as installing Perspex over the windows and removing glass shower screens.

Both providers also took part in social value projects at the service. AD Construction put pictures up, and assembled the new furniture, while 1st Stop tidied up the garden, cutting the grass, trimming back hedges, and removing treetops.

The garden at Gravesend Learning Disability Service.

October 2023: Customers start moving in

With the works on their flats and the communal areas complete, the service’s first customer moved in last October, and another joined in January. Both are doing very well, and gradually building more independent lives in their communities.

Look Ahead’s Deputy Director of Specialist Referrals and Growth, Anna Cameron, said:

“The project at Gravesend has been a fantastic team effort by Look Ahead staff and our contractors. We now have two young adults who have made a flying start to new chapters in their lives as they move into greater independence and understanding how it feels to be part of a community. Our partnerships with AD Construction, 1st Stop and Glendale were instrumental in this, and we hope to continue this working partnership on future projects.”