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Case study one: The Johnson family – adoption and UK housing difficulties

Published: April 2024


This case study highlights the need for a compassionate and equitable approach to better support families with complex needs, urging decision-makers to prioritise accurate information, collaboration across social care services, and a more empathetic, person-centric system.

Case study

The Johnson family’s journey through the UK housing system unveils the heartfelt challenges that individuals with diverse needs encounter.

Adopting two unrelated children, their daughter, now 24, grapples with the complexities of Coffin Siris Syndrome, learning disabilities, ADHD, anxiety, kidney and bowel issues, and physical challenges. Presently in supported living, her initial two-year smart house project is concluding, highlighting the crucial need for permanent post-settlement support, which unfortunately was not provided. In parallel, their son, aged 29, wrestles with severe ADHD, anxiety, and depression, navigating a tumultuous path through temporary flats and even prison.

Just like many families, the Johnsons sought information from social workers, delved into online research, and sought insights from parent-led charities. However, they encountered challenges with verbal explanations from social workers that often lacked proactive communication and detailed guidance.

Within the family dynamic, striking disparities in support emerged. While their daughter found stability and a well-trained support team in her current living situation, their son faced disregard and unwelcome attitudes. The Johnsons passionately emphasise the vital role of genuine co-production and peer support in nurturing positive outcomes for individuals facing complex needs.

Acknowledging the diverse and unique needs of individuals, the Johnsons advocate for a streamlined support system with accessible resources that cater to the intricacies of each case.

The Johnsons faced barriers, including misinformation from social services, budget-related conflicts among different services, and challenges linked to gender dynamics within housing situations. Additionally, the family underscores the glaring lack of mental health support, particularly for them and their son, emphasising the urgent need for a more comprehensive and responsive system.

In proposing changes, the Johnsons passionately advocate for the elimination of the ‘postcode lottery’, the adoption of person-centred planning, and simplification of the housing application process. They call for a realistic evaluation of the system, recognising pockets of good practice, but earnestly underscore the need for enhanced multi-agency collaboration and addressing accommodation shortages.

This case study not only sheds light on the intricate circumstances faced by the Johnson family but resonates with the experiences of many others navigating the UK housing system. It fervently emphasises the necessity for a compassionate, person-centred approach from professionals to ensure effective and equitable support for individuals with diverse needs.

Future impact for commissioners/decision-makers

  • More accurate information and support available to families.
  • Greater collaboration and access across different social care services.
  • Elimination of ‘postcode lottery’, replace with a consistent process not location dependent.
  • A more empathetic service that is person-centric to individual needs.

Please note the above details have been anonymised for privacy of the family.