In 1985 two local families, each with a son with Downs Syndrome, decided to do something about the lack of high quality residential care available for their children. They decided they would open a home for a group of young people with learning disabilities, including their sons, who had all attended the same school in Bristol and were now facing a future as adults. And so Orchard Vale was born.
Orchard Vale's early days were a struggle to survive. There were no substantial resources available except the help of a kind and farsighted bank manager. After a long search, the families found an old manor house in Wookey and managed to buy it with a considerable mortgage.
Other family members and some supportive professionals became involved and Orchard Vale Trust was able to open its first home, East Court, in February 1986. There were 17 residents, with a wide range of learning disability, and the aim was to provide an individually designed programme of care to meet the needs of each individual.
Since 1986 Orchard Vale has opened a further three homes in Somerset. Northcroft opened in 1991, St Chad's House in 1995 and Ferndale in 1998. These homes provide support for a further 15 residents. Recently, we have also begun to offer day care at East Court.
The early days were marked by the enthusiasm and willingness of families, parents, and supporters to make Orchard Vale work. Their vision was to provide homes for as long as their residents needed them.
Orchard Vale's work was, from the beginning, underpinned by core values of respect, dignity, autonomy and choice. Today we believe our services must be entirely focused on meeting each individual's needs. That alone is our agenda.
In so many ways Orchard Vale was a pioneering charity in its field, and we have continued to build on the vision of our early founders. Central to our vision today is the need to provide services that reflect what individuals want. We remain committed to those people who live in our homes, and we still envisage giving them a home for as long as they want to live there.