Achieving the NAS accreditation during COVID-19

Northfield House is one of our residential care homes in Taunton, Somerset. The service provides support for up to 11 adults with learning disabilities, autism and complex care needs. Earlier this year, they became our latest service to become accredited by the National Autistic Society (NAS).

The NAS accreditation is a quality standard, recognised internationally. This demonstrates a commitment to understanding autism, while also acting as a programme of continual support and development for our services. The residents at Northfield House are predominantly autistic. So, the team wanted to create a more autism focused environment and take the opportunity to learn more about autism.

But achieving the accreditation presented some challenges. According to Service Manager Sarajane, the biggest challenge they faced during the process was trying to complete the accreditation during the pandemic. We caught up with Sarajane, along with Deputy Service Manager Charlotte, to find out more about the NAS assessment process. They told us what it was like completing the accreditation in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions.

The accreditation journey

Northfield House started their accreditation journey in early 2020. In order to become accredited, organisations are required to complete a self-audit, before moving onto the assessment, with regular interaction and visits from their  NAS assessor throughout. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there were periods where face-to-face visits could not be carried out. The service and the NAS maintained regular contact via video and phone calls to share information, reflect on practice and work through the development and implementation of actions identified throughout the process. Northfield House highlighted that they gained valuable knowledge and insight during the pre-assessment audit and with support from both the NAS and Raj, Voyage Care’s Autism Specialist Implementor.

Northfield house have already implemented some of the ideas that were identified during the audit process. This included the use of art therapy and visuals aids, which are already proving to have a positive impact on the people we support. Debbie, one of the residents, has Asperger’s syndrome and autism. She can sometimes display obsessive behaviours. Art therapy has really helped Debbie to control some of those behaviours and her artistic skill has blown the team away!

The assessment

The assessment itself took place in December 2020, however due to COVID-19, it was a little different to normal. The service utilised technology more than ever by submitting videos and pictures as evidence. As the assessor was unable to enter the building, some of the assessment observations were completed outdoors. Luckily, there were many activities that could still form part of the assessment, including a trip out for some last-minute Christmas shopping, a visit to a café for a takeaway drink, and Christmas wreath making, using items from the garden.

The assessment not only covers observations of working practices, but also includes contact with key people involved. These key people are staff, families and professionals with feedback obtained via phone calls, emails and questionnaires.

The people we support are also very involved. Sarajane explained, “Prior to the assessment we told the residents that there was somebody new visiting the home to look around…some of the residents were slightly anxious so we had to be aware of this and not everybody gave consent to be involved, but those that did actually found it very exciting!”

Tim, one of the residents at Northfield House, was involved in the assessment and had the opportunity to chat with the NAS assessor. Tim told us about his experience, he said: “I went shopping, he (the assessor) didn’t speak to us whilst we were shopping but he asked me some questions when we got back… It was brilliant having a chat with him, I absolutely loved it.”

Achieving the accreditation during COVID-19

Working to complete the accreditation during a global pandemic may have been a challenge. On reflection, the service shared that the pandemic gave them a real opportunity to focus on the people we support and what they need, enabling them to live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Northfield House decided to work towards the accreditation to gain the expertise and knowledge to provide the best possible support to their residents. Although they’ve now achieved the accredited status, it doesn’t stop there. They told us they would love to go further and achieve the advanced stage, which is something they’re hoping to work towards in the future.

Visit our Autism support page to read more about how we support autistic people and our partnership with the National Autistic Society.

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