Disabled crash victim 'never happier' after decades of 24-hour care changed

Tracey Jennings and her sister-in-law Jo with some of the reminders she leaves. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council
Tracey Jennings and her sister-in-law Jo with some of the reminders she leaves. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council

A disabled crash victim who had 24-hour care for decades says she has never felt happier after realising she does not need constant supervision.

Tracey Jennings, 57, is now able to do simple tasks like making a cup of tea by herself as a social worker decided she only needed two and a half hours of care.

Social worker Calum Finch, Tracey Jennings and Jo Jennings. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council

Social worker Calum Finch, Tracey Jennings and Jo Jennings. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council

Her sister-in-law Jo Jennings, who undertakes the care, said she cannot remember Tracey smiling so much.

Tracey said: “I’m really happy now – and I’m so grateful to Jo. We get on so well.”

Tracey, 57, from north Oxfordshire, was involved in a car accident in Tadmarton 36 years ago at the age of 20, leaving her in intensive care with brain damage.

Her parents looked after her until their sudden death, then family friends took over, for more than 17 years.

Tracey Jennings at Banbury bowling alley. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council

Tracey Jennings at Banbury bowling alley. Photo: Oxfordshire County Council

But when they announced they were moving away, Tracey’s close family had three weeks to find a solution.

Jo, 53, approached Oxfordshire County Council’s adult social care team at the end of November last year, and the case was referred to social worker Calum Finch.

Calum felt there were areas where they could increase her independence and decided Tracey was able to manage her needs for the majority of the day without support.

Tracey, 57, was given a pendant alarm to contact the care team at short notice, while Calum and Jo monitored her movements with voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service Amazon Echo.

Calum said: “Things have gone really well – as well as we could have hoped.

“It has been a really big change but Tracey seems happy with it. That has been really positive for me to see.”

Jo admitted she had been ‘petrified’ by the thought of Tracey’s care being reduced, but it has been a revelation.

“I’d never dealt with social services before, but credit where credit is due, Calum has been an absolute star,” she said.

“Having put plans into place I’ve realised Tracey actually doesn’t need 24-hour care. It’s lovely to see her so independent now and doing things I never imagined she’d be able to do.”

Jo leaves Tracey with a series of prompt cards each day, like ‘hang the washing’, ‘hair wash day today’ and ‘don’t forget to brush those pearly whites’.

The family have installed security cameras to monitor visitors to the property.

Jo said: “It has been about being flexible and ensuring the time I spend with her provides the best quality time.

"We’ll occasionally go out for brunch or go bowling. It has worked out so well. She’s so much happier and smiling all the time.”

The council’s director of adult social care, Kate Terroni, said: “Our whole ambition within adult social care is to support people to live independent lives.

“This is a fantastic example where a social worker, working in partnership with the family, has used advanced technology available to the council to come up with a plan which has enabled Tracey to live independently with a small amount of support.”