New Opportunities in Havering
There are new opportunities for some of our customers who live in the London Borough of Havering, now that one of their favourite activity clubs has reopened.
‘New Opportunity’ is what you would most liken to a Day Centre for the activities it offers to people with learning disabilities, but it isn’t a permanent fixture like most day centres and Jo Metcalf, who runs the service, sets everything up in the local church hall.
The coronavirus lockdown put a halt on day centres and many other external facilities that people we support so enjoy (which prompted a full programme of internal activities and went down a storm, but that’s another story!). Now that lockdown has eased a little and external facilities are opening again, Jo got in touch with the supported living services for people with learning disabilities in Havering to let them know she was back and our customers were excited at the prospect!
Having been in lockdown for such a long time, however, it was understandable that our staff and particularly our customers were a little nervous and apprehensive of going back to activities outside the safety of their home.
Jo reassured us all that everything was safe and organised and sent us her risk assessments and safety measures she had put in place to make them feel as comfortable and calm as possible. She even phoned to speak to the three people from our services who were going to be attending the activities to explain to them what they could expect on the day and how it would be safe.
The number of people attending had reduced to a bubble of 12, separated into two groups of six and social distancing and mask wearing would take place throughout the day.
This was a big step for our customers and there were quite a few changes to how things used to be before lockdown, which can often be unsettling for people we support, particularly for people who have autism and like routine and structure. The day of the week had changed and the activities were different, plus our customers used to go to some activities on one morning and attend others on another morning.
Now, to keep everyone safer and limit the amount of times people needed to attend, the activities were held on one day. Again, this was all communicated in advance to the people we support so that they could prepare and feel comfortable.
To say that our customers loved being back to New Opportunity and taking part in the activities they enjoy, and have missed, is an understatement! There were pom poms which everyone always loves and also balloon decorating, where customers put plaster of paris on to the balloons, let it harden, ready to paint them later and then to add baskets at the bottom to make them into hot air balloons. Sounds fabulous.
Our customers can’t wait to go back! There are lots of positives in the ‘new normal’ and we are all pleased that life can carry on in a similar way to before and that the people we support can enjoy their old external activities as well as their newly adopted internal ones.
I enjoyed my day, when I got up I was worried about what was going to happen when I got there, but once I got there I was fine.
I didn't feel nervous because I had spoken to Jo before, once I got there I enjoyed my day and can't wait to go back.
I was nervous when I got up and ready for the day, but once I got to the group and saw Jo I was happy and enjoyed my day, plus I went back today and had lots of fun, made a puzzle.