People with learning disabilities in Cheshire and Merseyside are able to enjoy the company of their loved ones safely, thanks to new ‘interaction hubs’ that allow families to spend time together in line with government restrictions.
The eleven hubs are located at learning disability services, all run by national charity Hft, in Neston, Willaston and Ellesmere Port. The supported living services, which support over 60 people with learning disabilities locally, have been welcoming family and friends to spend time with supported people in newly-made, specially designed wooden gazebos, which are being used in line with government guidance.
Inspiration for the project came from Hft’s Regional Manager, Laura Barron, who was keen to find a way for people to safely stay in contact with their loved ones. After coming up with the innovative idea to create outdoor interaction areas, building work began in November. The timber hubs, which came into use earlier in the year, contain lights, heating and benches, allowing people to shelter from the weather, and are complete with markings to help with social distancing. Operating using a booking system, the hubs have already proven popular with people who have previously suffered from low moods when poor weather means family visits have been cancelled. Government guidance permitting, visits can now go ahead in all weather, with the added bonus of encouraging people to spend more time outdoors.
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The ambitious project was made possible thanks to donations from the Cheshire Community Foundation, the Collinge family, Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme and the charity’s own Pandemic Appeal, as well as legacy donations left by a person supported by the charity who passed away, and the family member of someone supported by Hft. Local building firm Garden Barber also lent a hand by completing the work on a reduced budget, donating materials and even arranging a ribbon cutting to officially open the first hub.
Laura Barron, Regional Manager, said:
“Over the past year, people we support have faced huge changes to their daily routines and support networks. While many of them have been supported to engage with their family and friends using technology, people were still missing face to face contact. Family and friends are there for life, and maintaining these relationships is essential to everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.”
“Thanks to this project, people have been able to enjoy some quality time with their families. We’ve been absolutely blown away by the response to this project, which has highlighted the generosity and community spirit that has been such an important force during these difficult times. We couldn’t be happier with the interaction hubs and are so looking forward to seeing more smiles on people’s faces as they enjoy a get together with their loved ones.”
Mrs Marsh’s daughter is supported at a local Hft service, and the family have been enjoying using the interaction hubs to spend time together. She said:
“We are very grateful that the hubs have been built. They enabled us to help our daughter enjoy her birthday and put a smile on her face. Prior to having them we used to only get to see our daughter on days where the weather was dry but now we have the hub we can see her whenever we want to see her, or whenever she’s having a bad day and needs us.”
Notes to editors
For further information please call our media enquiries line on 0117 906 1697.
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
Location: Hft Cheshire & Merseyside