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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

People holding sparklers

IDPD which takes place each year on 3 December, was started by the United Nations to raise awareness of the barriers facing people with disabilities and to mobilise support for greater equality.

Published: 03/12/2021

Five months since ‘freedom day’ and the care sector continues to experience limitations from the pandemic but has also seen great opportunities to provide innovative support for people.

Since the pandemic hit, people with learning disabilities have found themselves with fewer opportunities to engage in their usual lifestyles. Sue Allison, Peabody’s Head of Disabilities Service in Essex and London talks about overcoming these challenges and how it has been a main focus for our services for people with disabilities during the last 20 months.

We support over 300 people, most of whom have a learning disability, while some have acquired brain injuries. Our 400 colleagues support people in registered care services, supported living, supported housing, floating support or care at home.

Through creativity and perseverance, we’ve found that Covid’s long-standing grip doesn’t need to prevent our customers from having fulfilling and enjoyable lives.

Our approach is based on a single core principle: people with disabilities can have the same quality of life and do the same things as everyone else, we just need to create the right environment and offer the right level of support. Rigorous innovation, in partnership with our customers, has been our key to success. Before Covid hit, we would routinely take our customers to the shops or out for day trips but when these activities stopped being possible, we had to look for new ways to keep our customers happy and busy.

Most of the people we support were spending 24 hours in their homes during the worst of the pandemic, so we made sure their home environment was as comfortable as possible. At Sunrise Avenue, a supported living service for three gentlemen, a support worker painted them in a glow in the dark mural helping to make the outdoor space their own. Meanwhile, at Third Avenue another supported living service, our team redecorated one of the rooms so that Paul, who is partially sighted, could find his way around more easily.

Meet our resident Paul from Third Avenue

Meet Paul and our Care Support Workers at Third Avenue.

We held parties, gardening days and competitions for our customers. Where allowed we arranged doorstep visits to our customers who ordinarily received care at home or floating support. We recognised that some of our customers were feeling the effects of social isolation more than others, so we gave them animal companions. At Avalon House, a care home support worker came up with the idea of hatching eggs as a fun lockdown project. Now, our customers live alongside three friendly ducks who sit by the window most days, where our customers can watch them, and everyone gets fresh eggs for breakfast.

In another scheme, Teresa was having a hard time coping with the lasting effects of the pandemic. Teresa’s support worker found a poodle puppy was available and said to Teresa ‘if you want to have Lola, she’s yours’ – and that was it. Lola is the best thing that’s happened to Teresa – she has physically glowed with happiness since they met. It’s been a learning curve, but she’s loved looking after her own dog, and we think they’ll be friends for life.

Many of our customers can now leave their homes, but they still have to be really cautious. Every Bonfire Night, residents in one of our supported housing schemes all go to a public celebration. Sadly, they still can’t go to big events due to Covid, so we held our own. They made their own Guy out of old clothes and had a great time sitting outside watching the fire. One of our support workers even came up with the imaginative idea of putting sparklers into carrots so they could hold them.

Creative ways of bringing happiness

We can only innovate successfully if our ideas are inspired and directed by our customers. We encourage our support workers to be creative and come up with new ways to bring happiness for our customers, listening to their views and adopting a co-partnership approach.

This has been particularly successful in the case of Ryan, who moved into Pioneer House during the pandemic. He’s selectively mute so he communicates by writing to us. He wrote to his support worker saying that he wanted to be more independent and wants to do computer programming. Now Ryan goes to college every week to study English – as he needs this qualification first. It’s so amazing to see how far Ryan has come since he moved into our service.

There are many more examples of how the people we support have overcome the barriers of the pandemic and we believe it will have a long-term impact on our service too. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we have taken this to heart, helping our customers live their best lives by empowering our colleagues to be more innovative and creative in the support that they provide.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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