Lockdown easing will trigger mixed reactions from service users of one well-rated support service

Sophie Templeton and Cassy Lawson, Humbercare
Sophie Templeton, senior practitioner, and Cassy Lawson, Registered Manager, Self Enablement Service, Humbercare.

Whilst many of us are looking forward to getting back to some sort of normal life, a small number of service users at one city support project may be sad to see some lockdown measures eased.

Humbercare’s ‘Self Enablement Service’ (SES) provides intensive support to individuals with complex needs, helping them to beat social isolation and to be actively involved in their neighbourhoods. The project delivers personally-tailored help to clients in various household settings, including one-to-one, 24-hour, live-in support to clients’ in their own homes.

Cassy Lawson is Manager for Humbercare’s Self Enablement Service.

She said: “Some of our service users are autistic. They don’t like crowded places. They don’t like being encouraged to socialise anyway. They are really coping in lockdown. They’re happy that you can go into a shop and you’ve got to keep distanced. Everything is less busy, and presented in a much more structured way. They’re really thriving in this situation.”

“The lockdown has presented a unique challenge for all of us, however, and not surprisingly many of the people we help feel frustrated at being forced to stay at home.”

Supporting other service users, then, especially those with acute learning difficulties, has been particularly difficult for the project during lockdown.

Cassy explained: “We support a client group who have diverse and complex needs, many of whom would otherwise be detained in restrictive settings such as specialist psychiatric units. The Self Enablement Service, in line with Humbercare’s ethos, works to ensure that each person meets their full potential to live as independently as possible within the community.”

“It’s been very difficult, yes, because our service is very hands-on, in people’s flats, cooking tea with them, making beds. I’d say it was even more difficult for the staff in the first instance, not being able to provide the type of support that we usually would. But we’ve never stopped working, we continue to go and support them, we’re just having to do a lot at the door now,” said Cassy.

“In the 24-hour support settings, we still go in as usual. People still need our support, we can’t stop that, we’re just taking appropriate measures. We’re using a lot of visual prompts. We’re taking in a 2m tape, so they can see what constitutes 2 metres distancing. We’ve got visual reminders and signs of the symptoms of coronavirus, and what to do if you do have any symptoms. These changes have helped people understand the parameters they must live with, understanding just what the changes mean. 

“The main challenge we’ve had over the last few months is trying to get service users to understand lockdown, to take it seriously, and not to take it personally – that it’s not targeted at them as individuals. We hadn’t anticipated that some would feel victimised by the situation. We’ve had to constantly explain that ‘we’re all in this together’.

“I think it’s interesting that what might be difficult and different for one person is easy and comfortable for another. We are learning all the time and meeting particular and individualised needs, so in some way this has developed our best practice.”  

The Self Enablement Service focuses on service-user’s time, showing them how to use their time meaningfully to distract them away from negative activities. Many SES clients rely on having a full timetable to occupy their days in a positive way. Lockdown has turned this approach completely on its head.

Cassy said: “A huge part of our support is engaging people with all of the great activities we have in Hull, and all of the great clubs: Men in Sheds, Jubilee Life College, all those fab opportunities. For some of our service users, that’s their life-line, for socialising, meeting other people, just keeping them out of trouble. But all of that has been closed, and people just don’t have anything to do with their days. That has been the biggest impact, as we have been the only source of distraction as all their support networks and daytime activities have completely stopped.”

In many cases, the service users have taken the initiative to create activities for themselves and their peers, particularly in group accommodation settings. They’ve been cooking, sharing recipe ideas, and crafting together. The pressures of lockdown, and the dangers the coronavirus presents, have shown people just how important it is to support others, and many service users have responded well to opportunities to learn new social skills.

“This has been extremely valuable in showing our service users just how inventive and caring they can be in what has been at times very difficult and frightening times,” said Cassy.

SES staff too have embraced new learning opportunities.

Cassy explained: “Video conferencing, yes, all our staff meetings are now on Zoom. That’s really helped us to keep in contact with staff that are out in the community. The community-based team, who are on shifts, we struggled to get them together before, people work nights, people work days, they’re all over Hull and the East Riding. So now we keep in touch by video call, that’s been fab. We’ve also been video calling some of our service users as well.”

SES Humbercare CQC
The Care Quality Commission recently rated Humbercare’s SES ‘Good’ across all inspection criteria.

Just before lockdown began, the Care Quality Commission visited Humbercare’s Self Enablement Service, to carry out a periodic inspection of the project. SES maintained its ‘Good’ rating across all aspects inspected: Safe, Effective, Caring, Responsive, and Well Led.

Cassy concluded: “We never take our foot off the gas. We’ve been going now for five years, and at no point do we ever say ‘we’re done’. We get new service users, we have to learn new things. We get new staff that are constantly teaching us new ways to do things. I was kind of looking forward to being able to show SES off, to be honest. I do quite enjoy the inspections.

“Reflecting over the past two months, I think we have all had to learn new ways of living, working, and caring for each other. The lockdown has provided an opportunity for us all to grow together.”

Website: Humbercare

[Jerome Whittingham – editor HULL IS THIS]

HULL IS THIS WELLBEING category is sponsored by NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group