Maximising outdoor space and expanding creative horizons are just some of the ways that frontline staff at learning disability services across the country have been supporting some of the most vulnerable adults in society during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Support workers at the services, run by national charity Hft, are going the extra mile to ensure they are able to keep people safe and provide reassurance during this unsettling time. They include 27 year old Abby Howard who has been working at the charity’s Bristol service for the last four years. One of the ways she and her colleagues have been supporting people through the pandemic has been by helping them to maximise the potential of the communal spaces in their home.
Based on staff members’ specialist knowledge, the new space is filled with items that stimulate the senses, ranging from a scented curry leaf plant to brightly coloured flowers for visual stimulation and nearby outdoor musical instruments.
In addition to maximising the outdoor space, the staff team has also planned activities centred around people’s interests, to tackle low moods caused by being unable to take part in their usual activities. This included staging a special concert screening for two Westlife superfans. After spotting the newly released concert DVD, Registered Cluster Manager James Baker arranged a projector, concert seating, and even homemade tickets in honour of the special showing for the whole household.
Over at an Hft service in Devon, performing in a choir is an important part of many people’s day to day lives. The Holler Choir, which includes 15 people with learning disabilities, is a regular fixture at local events and members thrive on singing in front an audience. Being part of the choir has been a huge confidence booster for its members and provides a regular chance for people to get together and learn something new.
Another support worker going the extra mile is Janneke Bax-Pratt, who has been a support worker in Stroud for three years. She supports people including Rob, an avid painter whose exhibition at a local gallery was cancelled in March as a result of the pandemic. Staff were keen to ease his disappointment and encouraged him to use the extra time at home to experiment with new artistic techniques. They sourced new materials for him to use and as a result, Rob has started using mixed media to enhance his work, with support staff noting that this has had a positive impact on his mental health, expanded his creative horizons and helped him to remain motivated to work towards a future exhibition.
Emma Bagley, Divisional Director at Hft, said: “Staff are the bedrock of care. In these challenging times we all have a role to play. The need for people to provide care and reassurance for adults with learning disabilities is greater than ever. Even little things can make a big difference, from supporting someone to stay in touch with loved ones to ensuring they have essential supplies, like food or medication. We are calling on anyone who may be temporarily out of work or seeking alternative employment due to the pandemic to apply for relief support workers roles at Hft and help care for some of the most vulnerable adults in society.”