Frontline staff at a learning disability service in Montpelier are finding creative ways to support some of the most vulnerable adults in society during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Support workers at the Bristol-based service, 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 service, which supports adults with learning disabilities to live in their own homes, 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.

This has included setting up flowerbeds and vegetable patches in the garden. Adrian, who is usually particularly active in his community, has taken a leading role in maintaining the outdoor space, enabling him to develop his organisational skills and boosting his confidence by giving him additional responsibilities.

Other green-fingered people include Jane, who is health conscious and passionate about cooking. As she currently can’t source her own ingredients as readily from local shops and struggles to access the communal garden due to mobility issues, staff have arranged for raised beds to be introduced in the green space outside her flat. She has now begun planting her own herbs and vegetables so she can start growing what she needs and have the opportunity to experiment with new flavour combinations.

For people at the service with high sensory needs, a new sensory herb garden has been introduced. 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.

Abby said:

“At a time like this, when anxiety for people with learning disabilities may already be heightened, the new sensory space provides a vital sense of calm and can soothe tensions and feelings of stress.

“It’s been lovely to see how thinking creatively about the ways we can support people has helped them to settle into this new way of life more easily. For me, being a support worker feels more important than ever at the moment, and my role in people’s lives has never been more significant. I love my job – it’s an amazing feeling to teach people new things and make a difference to their lives.”

In addition to maximising the outdoor space, the staff team has also planned a range of 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.

Hft is a national charity supporting more than 2,500 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. It has recently launched an appeal to help ensure people continue to receive excellent support during the pandemic.

Selina Orrell, Head of Fundraising and Supporter Engagement, said:

“Our front line support staff are truly amazing. They are constantly adapting to the pandemic and being creative in how they provide support during a time which can be particularly challenging for people with learning disabilities, as they can feel more vulnerable and isolated. Our skilled and passionate frontline teams – in Bristol and across the country – are working tirelessly at the moment to support people through the pandemic and we couldn’t be prouder of their efforts.

“We’re encouraging anyone who wants to donate to support our Pandemic Appeal, which focuses on enabling staff to continue delivering excellent support. A donation of just £10 can purchase essential supplies such as food and hand gels, while £50 could help us support even more families to navigate these daunting times through our Family Carer Support Service. We appreciate any help anyone can give.”

To find out more or make a donation to Hft, visit www.hft.org.uk/pandemicappeal

Notes to editors

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About Hft

Hft is a national charity supporting more than 2,500 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. Established in 1962, the charity uses its own unique Fusion Model to consistently deliver high quality, person-centred support across all its services.

Services range from supported living to residential care – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day. Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities, make friends and develop relationships and to find work.

For more information about Hft, please visit www.hft.org.uk

Information about learning disabilities

A learning disability can be mild, moderate, severe or profound and is defined as having a reduced ability to:

  • Understand new or complex information
  • Learn new skills
  • Live independently

For more information about learning disabilities, please visit www.hft.org.uk/resources-and-guidance