Being away from the comfort of home and the security of family is hard for any child, though it is particularly difficult for those with complex needs, such as learning disabilities. Creating a homely secure environment is vital for the recovery and mental wellbeing of children. As the Department of Health declared in 2017, secure environments for young people should be safe and secure but familiar and homely.
It is somewhat difficult to determine what makes a homely secure environment; here at ETB Furniture we believe that non-clinical bedroom furniture and the ability to personalise is what gives the children a sense of meaningfulness and comfort.
There are many things a secure environment can do to create a homely atmosphere, and we’ve set out just some of our top-tips.
Of course, natural lighting is important. But, having a window that overlooks beautiful and picturesque scenery is known to make us feel calmer and happier. It will also give the children and young people a sense of inclusion, like they’re not completely cut off from the outside world.
Recent studies have found that naturalistic colours such as soft blues and greens represent the natural world, and therefore improve our mental health. Though, soft blues and greens are commonly associated with clinical and hospital environments – so just be careful on shading.
If your secure environment is lacking views of rolling landscape or pretty gardens, the solution is simple: canvases or photographs. These devices bring the outside world indoors, which gives the children and young people a sense of inclusion.
Ability to Personalise
The freedom to personalise a space is important to any child or young person. It subsequently introduces meaningfulness as they feel a sense of ownership and respect. They can add in their own personal belongings which showcase their individual style and quirks, making them feel more settled and less stressed.
On a recent secure environment project, our team here at ETB Furniture provided each bedroom with ample storage space where the children and young people could showcase their personal effects. This also distils aggression and anger towards the room and the furniture, as the children are more likely to respect their surroundings.
Colours are powerful; they can have an effect on how we feel from day to day. Each colour comes with its own connotations, as I spoke about earlier, the soft blues and greens symbolise nature and peace. While colours like black and red have negative connotations, which link to danger, fear and anxiety.
If you are decorating a secure living environment for a child or young person, think about the connotations of colours. White or beige is one that is safe and used in most secure facilities, as this colour represents hope and light.
What About The Communal Spaces?
Well, communal spaces are a little different as they are not designed to be used as or even look like rooms we would have in our homes. Though, it is said that the design and layout of communal rooms can reduce aggressive behaviour and violence in secure environments, but how?
A secure facility in Norway worked with the children in their care to design the communal areas of the building. This allowed the children to showcase their artistic talent while creating a space that they wanted. I’m not saying have the children in your care design their own space – but perhaps give them an input, as this will creatively nourish them.
Communal spaces in secure environments tend not to opt for moveable furniture for two reasons; firstly, there is a risk of somebody tripping on a chair leg and injuring themselves and secondly, the moods of the children in your care can be somewhat unpredictable.
On one of our recent projects, the design team worked to create a dining room with ample space and a non-clinical feel. The team opted for chocolate faux leather seating that was fitted to the walls as it gave the dining room a contemporary feel, tables were placed nicely around the room to give the children space to eat and interact. The layout of this communal room allows the children and young people to move around freely and socialise, while it is also spacious so they do not feel enclosed.