Jennifer Dalrymple engaging in co-production processes.
Jennifer Dalrymple, Co-Production Lead with Capability Scotland engaging in co-production processes.

Plans to create a flagship community for individuals with additional and complex needs has benefited from record feedback from disabled people who use the services, as well as families, staff, and the wider community inspired by visits to a life-size apartment mock up.

Behind the proposed £25 million facility at Bertha Park in Perth, Scotland, Capability Scotland, a charity that delivers care, support, and education for disabled children and adults across Scotland, is engaging in one of the country’s largest ever co-production processes – a practice that sees services and designs tested and shaped by the feedback of those most impacted.

A full-size model of a future apartment has been built within the theatre of its existing Upper Springland site, where it cares for 59 adults with severe and complex disabilities and plans to develop an exemplary new facility in Bertha Park.

Since February 2022, more than 600 items of feedback have been contributed, with respondents including disabled people who use their services, families and carers, staff and guests including leading figures from both health and Perth and Kinross Council healthcare profession.

Jennifer Dalrymple, Co-Production Lead with Capability Scotland, said: “The mock up has been a huge success. Traditionally, developments of this scale and ambition would have been presented to staff and residents as a finished product.

“We want to build the UK’s best enabling and inclusive accommodation for people with severe and complex needs, at the heart of the Bertha Park village community. By engaging so intensively in co-production we hope to understand how even the smallest detail can impact the experience of residents and staff. Enabling them to physically experience an example of their new apartment provides us with incredible insight.

“Done right, this means we get the design as close to perfect at the first time of asking rather than frustrating flaws emerging from the outset – and we can achieve our lofty ambitions.”

As part of Jennifer’s role, she has collated all of the feedback by subject, allowing designers to understand how the smallest details can have a big impact. Common items addressed include wheelchair storage and access, bathroom space, layout and the types of doors used.

Jennifer added: “The next stage of partnership working will include a number of focus groups to discuss a range of topics including how technology can empower people, outdoor space, service delivery, catering, and transport to determine what people want life at Bertha Park to be like.

“This will be a vital piece of work to capture the knowledge and experience of everyone which will strengthen the project hugely.”

Senior staff from Capability Scotland’s Project Board have been visiting other services that have gone through a similar process and it has already highlighted more opportunities that will be explored for the new site.

Stephen Oswald headshot image.
Stephen Oswald, Capability Scotland’s Project Lead.

Stephen Oswald, Capability Scotland’s Project Lead, commented: “We’re starting with a blank canvas so it’s an exciting process and one which we can ensure our key stakeholders’ voices are heard from the start. We would encourage anyone who hasn’t shared their feedback – and has a clear interest in the project – to get in touch.”

During the early stages of its Bertha Park project, Capability Scotland is working in partnership with Bertha Park High School and local primary schools within the catchment area on a design challenge for the new campus, which is being facilitated by MOBIE (Ministry of Building Innovation and Education).

The initiative will build strong relationships in the community while tapping into the younger generation’s design ideas for the new facility.

Capability Scotland’s Upper Springland site has four registered services and offers residential and respite care to 59 adults with physical and learning disabilities. There is also a day service as well as a hydrotherapy pool, accessible gym, theatre, and walled gardens.

However, while the quality of care is outstanding, the site is now more than 40 years old and becoming more difficult to maintain. Climate change also means it faces an increasing flood risk from the River Tay – and the charity wants to create state of the art new flagship services.

For more information on Capability Scotland’s ambitions at Bertha Park, please visit the website.

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