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HRH The Princess Royal helps celebrate success of redesigned services for people with learning disabilities in Newton Abbot
HRH The Princess Royal helps celebrate success of redesigned services for people with learning disabilities in Newton Abbot

Hft Press Releases

HRH The Princess Royal helps celebrate success of redesigned services for people with learning disabilities in Newton Abbot

Published: 16/02/15

HRH The Princess Royal has visited Newton Abbot to help celebrate the transformation of services designed to empower people with learning disabilities with a greater level of independence and access to community life.

HRH The Princess Royal meets some of the people we support

On 16 February 2015, the Princess joined the celebrations to mark the successful transition of 36 people, supported by learning disabilities charity, Hft, from the residential campus site, Rivendell, into their own homes within their local community.

The visit gave Hft’s Royal Patron the opportunity to meet those living in the new Devon services and see first-hand how these services have evolved and flourished since the Princess officially opened Rivendell back in 1984.

The event began with a guided tour of one of the new properties where people live with the support of Hft staff. The Princess was shown around the residence by one of the tenants before spending time talking to support workers and residents about their home.

The Princess was also able to see a demonstration of an exciting piece of technology, which has been developed to support people with learning disabilities manage their own health and wellbeing. Lincus – developed by technology company Rescon – is an easy-to-use picture and simple word-based application for recording health and wellbeing information. Hft has worked with Rescon to develop Lincus for people with learning disabilities, allowing them to record their feelings using an intuitive touchscreen interface.

Lincus is being piloted in Hft’s Devon service and allows users to monitor the impact of interventions, track outcomes and calculates trends and potential health issues, allowing support staff to intervene early and to put mitigating plans in place where necessary. This is an example of just one of the pieces of technology being used to enhance the benefits of supported living by providing creative solutions to help people achieve their goals and enhance their independence.

For the second part of the event, the Princess travelled to Hft’s offices in Heathfield, where she met more than 40 guests including people supported by Hft and their families, staff and local dignitaries. There was also the chance to look through a photographic display illustrating how the charity’s services in Devon had developed.

This was followed by a speech by a family member, Pam Verran, who talked openly about her experience as a mother. She was initially anxious about her son’s move into the community but has since seen her son thrive in his new home.

Speaking about her family’s experience after the event, Mrs Verran said: “When I heard the about the plans to move from Rivendell I was absolutely devastated. I felt my son was safe and secure surrounded by people with needs similar to his. It was the fear of the unknown. However we were supported by Hft staff every step of the way and when we first arrived at his new house we were both overcome. It felt like home. He is supported to live independently but with the umbrella of care. He has greater interactions with staff who provide more one to one support but he feels freer because he has more choice to do what he wants to do. As the days have gone on I have seen him blossom. He has become a very confident person and it has given him a new lease of life.”

During the visit the Princess also said a few words, recognising families’ initial anxiety to change and acknowledging how well the new services had been embraced. She also reflected on their success and highlighted the positive impact on the individuals involved.

Before leaving the Princess was presented with a posy of flowers by one of the people supported by Hft.

Emma Smith is Hft’s Regional Manager for Devon and was responsible for leading the project to move people into their new homes in the community. She said: “Rivendell was a great place to live when it first opened. However, it is important to recognise that times have changed and our understanding of the best ways to support people with learning disabilities has evolved.

“By moving into more personalised settings within the community, and having the option of where and who they want to live with, has maximised opportunities for people with learning disabilities to have a greater level of choice and active participation in community life. These benefits are enhanced further by technology, personalised to the individual, which helps to bridge the gap between simply supporting people to live-day-to-day, and helping people to live fulfilled lives. As a result we have seen people thrive and grow.”

Reflecting on the day, Chief Executive of Hft Robert Longley-Cook, added: “We are delighted that Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal was able to join our celebrations and see how far we have come in terms of developing our services, as well as some of the exciting new technology that we are using, to ensure that we can continue to offer the best outcomes for the people we support.”

Hft currently supports more than 2,500 people with learning disabilities across the country. Locally, the charity supports more than 85 people in Devon. This includes supporting people with learning disabilities to live independently in their own homes, providing employment services to help people develop skills and experience for work and helping people to pursue hobbies, make new friends and get involved in their local communities.

Notes to editors

For further information please contact: Suzanne Fry, Public Relations Manager, on 0117 906 1755 or

For media enquiries, outside of office hours please call 0117 906 1697

About Hft

Hft is a national charity providing local support for people with learning disabilities and their families.

There are around 900,000 adults with a learning disability in England. A learning disability can be mild, moderate or severe and is defined as having a reduced ability to:

  • Understand new or complex information
  • Learn new skills
  • Live independently

Hft encourages and supports people to live as independently as they can and to pursue their own interests and social lives. The charity works in partnership with individuals and their families to achieve this.

Hft also works closely with local authorities and other agencies to find the best solutions to meet a person’s needs.

Leaders in personalised technology solutions to support people with learning disabilities, Hft is committed to working to adapt existing technologies and to develop and trial new ones to support people with learning disabilities to live safely and independently.

For more information on Hft please visit

Subject: Events
Location: Hft Devon (East)