Talented Paul Rowland doesn’t let his learning disabilities get in the way of having a full life, with the help of caring staff at Hightown Housing Association’s Ellis House supported living scheme in St Albans.
Paul, aged 30, who has lived in his own flat at Ellis House in Charrington Place for six years, is a championship swimmer, a member of a dance and drama group and a volunteer kitchen worker in a Hertfordshire County Council café.
He has excelled at swimming since taking it up as a teenager after his mother died of breast cancer, winning more than 70 medals in the process. Swimming at all distances, with backstroke as his favourite discipline, he has competed at national and international level in a number of Special Olympic events.
His highlights have included winning three gold medals at the Bath 2013 Special Olympics and representing Great Britain in a Special Olympic event in Monaco later in the same year.
Paul also finds time to perform with the Purple All Stars, a St Albans drama group for people with learning disabilities who promote a variety of health messages across Hertfordshire.
He says staff at Ellis House, where Hightown provides nine supported living homes for people with learning disabilities near St Albans City station, have played a key part in helping him reach his real potential.
“I love living here because it’s great having my own place, while there are always staff here to prompt and advise me, as well as making me feel secure,” he said.
Hightown provides 24-hour support on site at Ellis House, giving each tenant a link worker to help them with their daily living skills, including cooking, shopping and paying bills. The charitable organisation also involves residents in the recruitment of new staff as well as reviewing policies and procedures.
Paul added: “I get on really well with the staff here, who help me with things like shopping and cooking. I need a bit of prompting to do my chores and, with their help, I’ve got more confident with my cooking.”
In fact Paul works as a volunteer in the kitchen serving the Community Learning Disability Team working at Apsley in Hemel Hempstead. He said: “I’ve been there for three years, helping with the lunch preparation. I really enjoy it.”
Esther Pickles, Support Worker at Ellis House, said: “We’re proud of Paul’s achievements and delighted to see him grow in confidence with our support. We aim to help all our tenants live as independently as possible and it’s fantastic that Paul has achieved so much of his potential.”