Frontline staff at learning disability services run by national charity Hft are finding creative ways to support some of the most vulnerable adults in society during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Support workers at the Newcastle and Northumberland based services have been going the extra mile to ensure they are able to keep people safe and provide reassurance during this unsettling time. They include Joanne Brown, who has been a support worker at Hft for seven years and Prisiler Moyo, who has worked at Hft for nine years. They support Joyce, who has been shielding for over 14 weeks and has been supported to take on an imaginative project to help her through a difficult time. Joyce usually attends a day opportunities service three days a week, and regularly spends time in her community and with her mum. When she began to suffer from low moods as a result of changes to her routine, registered cluster manager Karen Conley suggested she used her passion for knitting to create something positive. So Joyce channelled all of her energy into creating a blanket to give her mum when they are reunited, with Joanne and support worker Prisiler Moyo on hand throughout to provide encouragement, guidance and source materials when wool was hard to come by.

Joanne said:

“Joyce’s blanket has given her so much focus and pleasure over these long weeks and has helped ease her anxieties at the huge change in her lifestyle. She’s spent every hour she can knitting and I believe it’s been a massive part of getting her through lockdown. Her joy at her own accomplishment has made us cry and we’re so proud of her.”

 
 
 
 
 
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At a day opportunities service run by the charity in Morpeth, staff have been working hard to ensure people can continue enjoying their hobbies, despite the service having to temporarily close. Using feedback from supported people, staff have put together art, pottery and craft activity packages, which also include quizzes and word puzzles, and have even delivered them to people’s homes. Activities focus on a different theme each week, with creative ideas so far ranging from pottery mice to decorated Easter eggs. The response has been extremely positive, with people and their relatives enjoying the opportunity to be creative and innovative during a time when they might be feeling more removed from their regular hobbies.

Also in Morpeth, registered cluster manager Stephanie Bell says her service has come together “as though we are all one big family.” Support workers at the service have been committed to continuing to support people to incorporate creative activities and daily exercise into their daily routines, despite the obstacles in their way. Several people at the service have been shielding and have limited mobility, but support workers have encouraged them to socialise while keeping fit in their gardens, which has led to people exercising more often and enjoying time with their housemates. After noticing  being unable to see their loved ones was affecting people’s mental health, staff have also used accessible resources to provide reassurance , and  technology to ensure they’re able to stay in regular contact with family, while creating rainbow art to share a hopeful message with the rest of the community.

When two people at the service were struggling at not being able to get out and about as easily, support worker David Sorley went the extra mile and transformed the garden at their home. Both gentlemen are registered blind, and were using their outdoor space more regularly during the pandemic as a result of not being able to access their community. However, the space was overgrown and difficult to access for one of the men, who uses a wheelchair. Thanks to David, who levelled out the front garden and laid down turf, the pair can now relax in their front garden. The new space has made a huge difference by boosting wellbeing and giving them a place to get some fresh air and enjoy the sensory stimulation that comes from hearing people and cars passing by.

Andrew Horner, Divisional Director for Hft services in the North, said:

“Staff are the bedrock of care and 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 support worker roles at Hft and help care for some of the most vulnerable adults in society.”

For more information about permanent or temporary roles at Hft visit: www.hft.org.uk/jobs