Sam Prowse has proved to be a continuing inspiration to people with learning disabilities after spending nearly two years living in a Hitchin supported housing scheme run by Hightown Housing Association.

Sam had been struggling to cope when he moved into a Hightown supported living flat in Napier Close in 2013. But he hasn’t looked back since receiving support there, and is now an ‘Expert by Experience Advisor’ – helping others through his first-hand experience of having a learning disability – for Hertfordshire County Council’s Community Learning Disability & Autism Service.

He said: “I had been feeling very low where I was living previously. Things were getting on top of me and I had been bottling up my feelings. However, when I lived at Napier Close, I received emotional support which made me feel more stable and better able to cope.

“I also had support with tasks such as learning to cook, as it’s something I had always wanted to do. By cooking my own food, I knew what had gone into my meals and it made me more independent.

“The support I received from Hightown was excellent – it was like the missing piece in my jigsaw puzzle.”

Feeling better equipped to cope, 25-year-old Sam moved out of Napier Close in March 2015 and staff helped him prepare for life in his own flat in Letchworth Garden City.

Sam continued: “When I moved in to my own place, the outreach support I received made me feel more settled as it can be quite daunting living on your own.”

After seeing a tweet from Hertfordshire County Council Community Learning Disability & Autism Service (@HertsCLDS) about an ‘Expert by Experience Advisor’ vacancy, Sam thought the job sounded perfect for him. Equipped with the confidence and independence from his time at Napier Close, he successfully applied.

“Ultimately, my role is giving first-hand experience of a person with a learning disability,” he said. “This ranges from making information easy to read for people with a learning disability to attending care and treatment reviews for people with learning disabilities or autism either in or at risk of having to go to specialist hospitals.  By working together with the person this can help them stay or return back to the community as soon as possible.”

As a member of Placeshapers, Hightown is supporting their #WeWork campaign to highlight how they have helped people gain the skills, qualifications and confidence to find work. Watch the video below to find out more.