Southampton Mencap Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Position - January 2021
New Year update from Alex, our Chief Officer
2021 started with the announcement of the country’s second lockdown leading once again to the forced shutdown of our building based services at the Mencap Centre in Portswood. We know this was a devastating blow to the many children and adults with a learning disability and their families and carers who rely and enjoy our services. From what they have told us this has been even harder to deal with than last year’s lockdown. Many are struggling with the isolation and not being able to live life in a way that is familiar to them. It has proved especially difficult following the gradual return to our day services for adults and Short Break activities for children last year. These opportunities brought a glimmer of hope that despite new measures life would slowly return to some sort of normality. Breaking the news that once again our doors were closed until further notice was hugely difficult though we know that it is our duty as a provider to keep everyone safe.
We’ve had to rise to the challenge of developing new and creative ways of supporting people; we’ve increased our range of remote services to keep them in touch and connected with each other. To our amazement many have become ‘Zoom’ experts, joining us for many sessions across the week. We have tutored those requiring additional support and provided IT equipment to those without the means to access the sessions thanks to grant funding from the National Lottery Community Fund and NHS Southampton.
Our Zoom sessions offer something to please everyone, ranging from fitness, cooking, quizzes, history and learning, art and singing, and these have all increasingly grown in popularity. Our amazing staff team has also embraced new ways of working, supporting our clients and each other. Between us all we are keeping in touch with everyone by phone, offering a listening ear or helping in whatever way is possible and safe. Our younger members have benefited from the 'Free Cake for Kids Southampton' initiative receiving a birthday cake which is normally shared with their friends in our groups, but for now being shared with their very appreciative families. The team of volunteer bakers do an amazing job in not just providing a beautiful cake of the child's choice but also in lifting the spirits of the whole family. (Isla shown below is in awe of her Peppa Pig cake)
Fittingly for the times we’re living in, we’ve met regularly on Zoom with our Treat Me Well campaigners and various health professionals in our quest to raise awareness on the need for reasonable adjustments when people with learning disabilities go into hospital. We hope to extend the scope of this campaign to GP surgeries and to help with making sure that information is more accessible and easier to understand. We’re in full support of recent campaign work demanding that people with a learning disability, who are amongst the most vulnerable in society, are given a higher priority for the Covid vaccine. We know that deaths in England amongst this group are 6.3 times the national average. This is a devastating figure and one we need to see changing fast. We are also advocating that their carers are given the same priority.
For those needing to hear a friendly and familiar voice, our centre in Portswood has remained open so that there is someone to speak to at the end of the line.
In line with the rest of the country we’ve avidly listened to Government updates and have also appreciated the support and financial help we have continued to receive from Southampton City and Hampshire County Councils.
Our Carers in Southampton service has also provided ongoing support to all carers, offering advice and guidance on assessments, carers’ cards and emergency planning and their website is packed full of up to date and relevant information.
The current situation has presented an unexpected opportunity to review the way in which we deliver our services and work with other local organisations to improve the support to our clients and their families and carers. We will listen to their experiences and use these to advocate and campaign where necessary on their behalf to ensure that they receive the support they need to live their lives in the future.
Ways of getting in touch with us: