Carole and Pat live together in West London. They spend their time creating intricate tapestries and blankets to help them keep active, improve their mental health and build new skills. We find out a little more about how they got into their hobbies.


It’s late November when I visit Carole, whose room is festively decorated for Christmas. She shows me her bedside table, covered in seasonal ornaments. Today it has Christmas trees, reindeers and a nativity scene. She gets out some bags containing colourful wool, and pieces she’s been working on. One of them is a tapestry – almost finished – which she’s making for her sister.


‘You want to be independent’

“It keeps me calm,” says Carole, when asked why she likes creating them. She’s also working on a set of children’s scarves, which she plans to donate to a children’s hospital. Carole likes taking part in festive activities, and often goes to Christmas fairs with her boyfriend to buy things for her seasonal table. These things motivate her get out and about, which she sometimes struggles with due to having anxiety and being a wheelchair user. “You want to be independent all the time,” she adds.


Pat, Carole’s housemate, also loves to create things. She attends a group called Bead Sew Crafty, where she does things like sewing and knitting. When I visit her room, she gets out a huge blanket big enough for a family of four.


“It took her only a few months to do,” explains Jagoda, Pat’s support worker, “she works very fast.” Pat also shows me some Christmas decorations she’s made, including three small snowmen that could spruce up anyone’s Christmas tree - she’s even sold things at local shows. “Having a diversity of activities is important,” Jagoda adds, while telling me about the different things Carole and Pat get up to.

The benefits of Active Support

Hobbies are an important tool for helping people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and mental health needs stay active.  A year ago, we compared what disabled people and non-disabled people were doing at 8:30 in the evening. One of the things we found out was that nearly 40% of people living in services were in bed at that time, compared with just 7% of non-disabled people. Watching TV and getting to bed early is what many non-disabled people do if they’re not going out, but does that mean it’s the best option when providing support?


We have seen first-hand the value of increasing participation, which is one of the reasons why United Response pioneered the Active Support approach. It encourages staff to makes use of everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning and pursuing hobbies. Increasing meaningful participation gives people a greater sense of control over their lives, as well as improving levels of confidence and independence.


As the evening approaches, I prepare to leave so that Carole and Pat can have their dinner. It’s cold and dark outside, and the pair have their slippers on, ready to settle down for the evening. Perhaps tonight is an evening spent relaxing in front of the TV, or perhaps it’s one for working on their next artistic project.


Learn more about Active Support