Promoting Independence – Interview with director Stuart Barrow

We talked to the director of returning ReBS borrower, Promoting Independence, to find out more about the company.

Stuart, talk to us about OT (Occupational Therapy) … in a couple of sentences, what is it?

Occupational Therapy is the use of occupation and purposeful activity to fulfil a need that is often lost through illness, disability or injury.  For example, gardening may provide a platform for rehabilitation to enable that person to reduce anxiety, utilise fingers that have been injured and to empower that individual again that they can do an activity they enjoy and rehabilitate at the same time. 

Do people sometimes get confused? It’s not really about occupations, or therapy…? Personal Enablement might be more accurate? Just saying?!

People assume Occupational Therapy is about getting a person a job (occupational health), or work related somehow.  In fact, Occupational Therapy is an enabling approach to rehabilitation through purposeful activity, thus if the need is to return to work after an accident, an Occupational Therapist can help, but its also enabling someone to toilet themselves again without a carer, enabling someone to bathe again following a car crash, its so much in so many different circumstances but using the core values and beliefs of the profession that occupation is essential and activities can aid recuperation. 

How did you begin, as an individual, and as a company?

To quote from our website, “Stuart Barrow of Promoting Independence is a member of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, an expert and recognised contributor in the field of home adaptations. His experience is sought by manufacturers and service providers looking for an expert opinion.  Stuart runs a successful clinical practice in South Wales and runs the Occupational Therapy Adaptations Conference, a specialist event based across many locations in the UK, regularly seeing hundreds of therapists attend each event.   Stuart has a passion for legislation and ethics and completed his MA Health Care Law and Ethics to enable him to specialise within the field.”

Stuart qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 2002 and has spent 17 years developing his skills as a therapist.  6 ½ years ago Promoting Independence was set up and is a thriving therapy based business, assessing hundreds of disabled adults and children a year for equipment and adaptations to enable them to live safely and independently at home. 

Your company provides OT at scale. How many people are under your assistance at any one time? 

I personally have a small case load of less than five clients, but as a therapy business we assess and support around 30 clients a month at present.   This involves rehousing to more appropriate properties, an extension for a disabled child were involved in with their housing provider and discharging clients from hospital. 

Who is your client usually? Is it individuals or local authorities, or other companies, care homes, and so forth?

95% of our clients are Housing Associations across Wales. We cover the UK but most of our work is in South Wales.   

How does it work, as a business?

We do a few main things for our clients:

  1. When someone applies for social housing and are disabled, we assess that persons needs and ensure that they can be met in the new property.  If the new property cannot meet the needs at present but could do with perhaps a minor adaptation like a stair lift, ramp or shower, we recommend this and it is done to enable the client to relocate to that property.
  2. When someone becomes ill, perhaps with cancer they may not manage at home anymore.  We visit, assess their environmental needs alongside their occupational needs (self care, productivity and leisure), and address those needs with the client to see if they can remain at home, what support they can have from statutory or private services and support any adaptation or equipment purchases they may require.
  3. I also consult for manufacturers bringing out new products for the disability market.
  4. I run a training and events side of the business running events to train and advise occupational therapists about equipment and adaptations www.otac.org.uk 
  5. I write for industry magazine THIIS https://thiis.co.uk/the-ots-perspective/

How many associates do you have? These are ‘sub contractors’ yes? 

Five who work for us weekly, a clinical director directly employed by me. 

What qualifications do OT professionals require?

Bsc Hons Degree in Occupational Therapy.  Our associates have to be qualified at least five years and have extensive training in housing adaptations before they can work for us.  All staff are members of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.   All staff are members of the specialist sections in housing and are known experts in their field.

What’s the trajectory of the sector? Is it expanding? People live longer, more likely to require this form of care?

 Expanding.

People are living longer and the aim of statutory services is to keep people safe at home.

There are 31,000 Occupational Therapists in the UK to meet the needs of 11 million disabled people in the UK!  Winter pressures, accidents, illnesses increases the needs of clients and puts huge strain on the NHS and Social Services, thus we are being funded by housing associations directly to ensure their tenants can live safe and as independent at home as possible rather than they lose tenancy due to illness and not being able to live at home anymore.

Thanks Stuart, great work you’re doing!

Read more about this company and visit their current application for funding here

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