‘Opt In’ October

Most of us spend our time opting out of junk mail, unwanted emails and subscriptions that we haven’t used in months. It feels like we spend more time getting out of the things we don’t want to do, or the companies we don’t want to hear from.

So we’ve launched ‘Opt In October’. A month dedicated to making the choice to do something, or be part of something new! When you choose to do something, you are much more likely to achieve it.

Throughout ‘Opt In October’ what you do is up to you. Set yourself a new challenge, do something you’ve put off for the past nine months, or simply try out that new group or activity that you’ve made excuses not to attend for longer than you can remember, its your choice.

So grab hold of October and give it ago, you never know what you might achieve when you choose to give it a go!


Holiday to Spain? Why not!

Every year we offer the opportunity to go on holiday for anyone that chooses to. Previous holiday destinations have included Butlins, The Calvert Trust, Blackpool, Tenerife, and even Jamaica.

This year service users from two of our registered services teamed up to go on holiday to Lloret De Mar in Spain. Chris Coles, Deputy Manager,  gives us a sneak peak into the experience…

It was an extra special holiday for some of us, as two service users who have been dating for many years had the chance to go on their very first holiday together, which certainly made this holiday extra special for them.

Another service user experienced his first holiday abroad for many years with his housemates. He usually prefers to stay closer to home due to the worry about his medical condition, however, with careful planning and help translating his medical protocols into Spanish by his consultant, he felt reassured knowing all measures were put in place to ensure he was safe whilst away in a different country.

We enjoyed many activities, including a trip on a glass bottom boat and visiting a historic castle at the top of a very high cliff. The train ride to the top was very frightening, but the views in the end were well worth it. The car lovers of the group had a thrill-seeking day spent at Port Aventura and Ferrari World, where everyone managed to become speed kings for the day.

I have been lucky enough to support service users from IH to many holiday destinations, however, this holiday was up there as being one of the best. I got to see two services come together and enjoy a fantastic time away in the sun.

Muchas Gracias to everyone that attended for making the holiday such a success.

‘No Sugar’ November

This month’s Wellbeing Challenge aims to reduce the amount of sugar we consume.

The consumption of too much sugar has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, tooth decay and many more health conditions. With changes in food production and product labelling it is now easier than ever to control the amount of sugar you consume, and in turn reduce the risks of developing any health complications.


Did you know, in Britain, each person eats approximately 140 teaspoons of sugar every week!


Therefore, we’ve dedicated November to helping you find out how much sugar you consume, and how you can reduce this to improve your health.


We’re joining forces with Matthew’s Friends, a charity specialising in ketogenic dietary therapies for children and adults with drug-resistant epilepsy, who are also going Sugar Free for November, to raise awareness of Ketogenic Therapy.

If you wish to, you can support them by fundraising along the way – look out for the Mini Challenges and take a look at their website:




Mini Challenge One – How much sugar are you consuming each week?

For the first challenge, work out how much sugar you consume in an average week. To do this, simply write out a weekly food menu and add up the total amount of sugar in each portion, don’t forget to add drinks too!

To find out the sugar content, look at the labels on the food…but remember, there are many different words for sugar!



Mini Challenge Two – Save and Donate!

To make a start with reducing your sugar, why not take the challenge and support Matthews Friends by not buying any sugary drinks, crisps, biscuits, cakes, sweets, chocolate or alcohol for the week. Keep track of the money you save too as it adds in to your savings, or ask friends and family to sponsor you and donate to Matthews Friends, it’s up to you!



Mini Challenge Three – Sugar swaps

Now that you know what foods contain the most sugar, and have suffered through an entire week without them, why not explore what alternatives are available to all those sugary snacks? By using alternatives, you can make simple changes to your diet which are much healthier, without the need to change the tastes you like and crave. Lots of foods and drinks now have sugar free or low sugar options, so look out for these when shopping. Making small changes will make a big difference.



Mini Challenge Four – Bake and Donate!

What better way to celebrate a month of being sugar free than a good old fashioned bake sale, but with one important difference, SUGAR FREE CAKES!

Check out the recipes on the Matthew’s Friends website for some inspiration, and whilst you’re at it, why not support them by raising money, and awareness, of epilepsy and ketogenic therapy.

The Military Connection

Military Connection

The Military Connection

1,500 organisations have now signed the Armed Forces Covenant, including charities like Help for Heroes. Independence Homes wanted to show its support by signing its own pledge. The Covenant is regarded with great significance and represents an organisation’s commitment to supporting the armed forces. It seemed a fitting way to recognise all the connections our company have with the military, whether that be through staff or those that we support.

Two of our long-standing and valued staff members, Sara McCague and Karen Lorimer, have both led Cadet groups for many years, 23 and 22 respectively. Karen is a Captain in the Royal Regiment of the Fusiliers and Sara is a Sergeant Major in the Blues and Royals. I had the opportunity to catch up with them to learn more about the armed forces and our connections.

Karen informed me that the company’s military connection starts with Caterham, the location of our head office and two of our services. Home to military barracks until 1995, which were built as a depot for the Foot Guards regiments in 1877.

We recently welcomed a young man called Tomas, who has served with the military for nearly eight years. Tomas is currently being supported through his long-term rehabilitation following a traumatic brain injury but the military of course still holds enormous importance in his life. Ensuring Tomas maintains his connection to the military is essential for improving his motivation, mood and general wellbeing.

Karen recalls their first meeting: “I asked Tomas which regiment he was in and he told me it was the Fusiliers, so I asked, first or second? And then, which company? He looked at me hard; there was an instant recognition – if you weren’t in the military, you wouldn’t ask those questions. I told him I was also a Fusilier, and he asked me what rank I was? So I told him I was a captain and from that moment on he only ever calls me ‘Marm’.”

Sara helps illuminate how important this could be for Tomas. He will now recognise that Karen completely understands some of his ways related to his army background. ‘The banter” for example. “Just generally the way they act and speak”, Karen concludes,  “Having that insight makes understanding someone a lot easier”.

Sara and Karen both agree that their work with the military puts them at an advantage in working to support people with complex care needs.

“We see a lot of people from different backgrounds; we can build relationships and connections a lot quicker than some people. Breaking the ice, that can take some people months. For us it just takes a few weeks”.

Sara describes how organising a Service User holiday is a ‘walk in the park ‘compared to ‘taking three hundred cadets away’.

Tomas has been maintaining a high level of fitness since he moved to his new flat and enjoys visiting the gym several times a week. Exploring ways Tomas will have continued involvement with the military makes up part of his key-working. “There will be lots of possibilities – The Invictus Games, volunteering at the Regimental Museum and taking part in regimental events could be a few ways of achieving this”, Karen tells me. “We will work with Tomas’s Post Resettlement Officer and his regiment to open up as many opportunities for support as possible”.

Karen was involved in supporting Tomas’s attendance at a regimental lunch at the Tower of London recently, pictures of the occasion show him looking incredibly smart and smiling broadly. From this lunch Karen has had offers of support for Tomas from serving soldiers who are prepared to give up their free time to give Tomas access to activities and events.

Finding ways to support every individual in achieving their goals is one of the core principles to our support. Being part of Tomas’s continued connection with the military has been a privilege and has only reinforced all of our respect for the armed forces.

Our Pledge- We, the undersigned, commit to honour the Armed Forces Covenant and support the Armed Forces Community. We recognise the value Serving Personnel, both Regular and Reservists, Veterans and military families contribute to our business and our country.

No Junk June

Most people are now aware that food containing high quantities of saturated fat and sugar is not healthy; contributing to a host of serious conditions from diabetes to cancer. Here are some of the less known harmful effects that the overeating of junk can have:

  • Sadness. The lack of essential nutrients contained in junk food can affect your hormone balance which can affect mood. It is especially important for people at hormone sensitive life stages like puberty and menopause to have a balanced diet.
  • Brain function– studies on animals have shown that trans-fats contained in junk food can interfere with brain signals and the ability to learn new skills.
  • Digestion – Oil from deep fried food deposited in the stomach causes acidity and irritation. The lack of fibre in junk food also hinders digestion.
  • It can make you tired – Non-nutritious food is often low in protein and complex carbohydrates which affect blood sugar levels causing energy crashes.

Ready-Made meals and fast food is marketed as a quick and easy option so we can forget just how simple, fresh food can be to prepare.

Which is why we have made June’s Wellbeing Challenge – ‘No Junk June’?  The aim is to reduce the amount of junk food we all eat.

No Junk June includes four mini-challenges throughout the month:

Mini Challenge One –

Replace a takeaway with a home cooked meal

We will be encouraging people in our services to replace a takeaway usually ordered with a home-cooked meal.

Mini Challenge Two –

See how much you spend on junk food

We will be supporting Service Users to calculate how much money they could save by cutting out junk food.

Mini Challenge Three –

Learn a ‘Fakeaway’ recipe

‘Fakeaways’ are a great way of eating a healthier version of a takeaway. We will be providing recipes and support to try making a ‘Fakeaway’.

Mini Challenge Four –

Plan a meal with a friend and share ideas

We will be encouraging social interaction with joint sessions sharing ideas and planning meals together.

Cutting out Junk in June is healthier, it costs less and tastes better so why don’t you take up the challenge too, and see what you can create?