Why wellbeing?

September 23 2022

Livability puts a premium on the wellbeing of the children, young people and adults with disabilities who use our services. In this article, we’re taking a look at some key areas for wellbeing and how Livability works co-productively on this with the people we support – and we share some personal wellbeing stories from the Livability community.

Stuart and Kerry from Livability Dolphin Court who met in 2021

What is wellbeing?

To measure wellbeing and shape policy on health and disability, the UK government uses objective measures, such as life expectancy and levels of unemployment. But also included are important, subjective measures – how people actually feel about issues, such as overall satisfaction with life and levels of anxiety, because this plays into our wellbeing, good or bad. The ‘five pillars of wellbeing’ is often used as a framework to quantify wellbeing; connecting with others, keeping active, engaging, lifelong learning, and giving to others.¹ Our staff are trained to invest time and effort into finding out what really makes life good for the people we support, along these lines, and to work with them to build this into everyday life.

Connecting with others

Far too often, feeling isolated and lonely is the experience of people with disabilities. The statistics are shocking: disabled people are almost four times more likely to report feeling lonely ‘often or always’ than non-disabled people.² The worst affected group is young people aged 16-24. It’s far harder to make friends if you are disabled: a staggering two-thirds of the British public (67%) admit that they feel uncomfortable talking to people with disabilities.³

Isolation and loneliness open the door to poorer wellbeing and a raft of related ill-effects. Weak social connections carry a health risk that is more harmful than not exercising, twice as harmful as obesity and is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.* In contrast, higher levels of wellbeing are associated with decreased risk of disease, illness, and injury; better immune functioning; speedier recovery; and increased longevity.*

Be active

We all know how important it is to keep moving. Physical activity keeps the body strong and healthy and can improve mental health by decreasing symptoms of depression, anxiety, pain and loneliness. Physical activity can also improve focus, sleep and energy levels.*

Children and young people with disabilities are at increased risk of being typically inactive, particularly as they become older and these issues have been exacerbated by the pandemic.¹ There is evidence that shows a likely relationship between engaging in physical activity and positive health outcomes for this group.²

With wellbeing central to the curriculum at Livability’s three education centres, spanning ages 3 to 25, Livability gives our students scope for healthy exercise, whether through adaptive sports like boccia, or forest therapy at Millie College. Simon Higgins, who until recently taught PE at Victoria School, says: ‘My philosophy of PE is to get people moving as best as they can. We have a mixture of abilities at Victoria School – from those able to walk to those in wheelchairs, and some with more profound and complex disabilities. PE for me is about keeping both the body and mind active.’ People living in our residential homes and independent living services can join online yoga sessions provided by the charity, visit local swimming pools and sports centres, and be supported to get out and about locally.

Give to others

Life seems more worthwhile when we can play a part in helping or working with other people, yet this can be another area where people with disabilities struggle to get a foot in the door. This is despite study after study showing that employing people with disabilities is a win-win for businesses. Research shows that companies keen on hiring disabled employees tend to outperform others, with their profit margin around 30% higher, net income 200% higher, and 28% higher revenues.³

Yet over half of the disabled respondents not in employment say they would like more help finding and keeping a job.

Some people we support have volunteer roles – but many more continue to search for opportunities to work or support their local community. During the pandemic, government statistics showed that disabled adults are as concerned to support others as non-disabled adults. In a seven-day sample, a similar proportion of disabled (64.9%) and non-disabled adults (63.1%) said they had checked on neighbours who might need help, at least once.

Says Livability CEO Sally Chivers: ‘The wellbeing principle is central to the Care Act and to modern social care’s emphasis on co-production. This makes perfect sense to us at Livability, because we see great outcomes – self-esteem, self-respect and confidence – when an individual has ownership and input into what makes life ‘add up’ for them. We use what we call a ‘life sum’ to co-productively enable people we support to encapsulate what makes life good for them and how they can make that a reality. This embraces their emotional, psychological and spiritual needs. We also invest in the wellbeing of our staff and volunteers, so that they are able to model positive wellbeing and give of their best.’

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Ashley's life sum

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