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Facilitating meaningful activity in a lockdown

Oonagh Smyth, CEO, Skills for Care

NICE define meaningful activity as including any “…physical, social and leisure activities that are tailored to the person’s needs and preferences. Meaningful activity is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of the individual accessing care and support. It can help to improve physical fitness, improve mood and help to combat depression and anxiety, combat loneliness, improve the quality of sleep and even reduce falls.”

Skills for Care’s CEO Oonagh Smyth reflects on why meaningful activity still matters even in the middle of a pandemic.

Keeping people safe and stimulated

When the staff at Broad Street House in Folkestone realised the people with learning disabilities who live there wouldn’t be able to go to their normal day care service due to lockdown they realised they would have to get creative. The staff hired a portacabin and a giant crane that lifted it into their garden and that gave them a base to run their own daily programme of activities including exercise classes, craft sessions and baking.

Whilst in lockdown Old Hastings House couldn’t allow visiting speakers, entertainers, therapists to enter their services, so they’ve been offering entertainment including a socially distanced singsong in the home’s back garden.
These are just a couple of examples we’ve heard from providers about how they’ve made sure that the people they support can access meaningful activities to help their mental and physical health, and keep safe from the virus.

Keeping people connected

Care providers have had to close their doors to visitors, which means they’ve had to find different ways to keep the people they support connected with their families and friends.

There’s been a rapid adoption of virtual technologies by care providers and we’ve heard endless stories of how this has proved a vital electronic lifeline between people in lockdown and their loved ones, without the risk of spreading the virus. The team from Dimensions, a care provider who support people with learning disabilities and autism, knew they would be locked down for Mother’s Day, so they worked with their clients and families to boost their facetiming skills so they could reach out to each other on that special day.

Sharing learning

At Skills for Care one of the first things we did when the pandemic struck was to ask organisations to send us examples of how they were being innovative in creating or maintaining meaningful activities for the people they work with. We’ve collected them on our feedback page at www.skillsforcare.org.uk/sectorfeedback

We’ve been able to share how all workers have begun utilising their own skills. That might be a shy member of staff who is now running classes with the people she works with to the former hairdresser who is able to use her old skills to run an impromptu salon so people can still look and feel their best.

The sector knows high quality and flexible activity provision is vital in any service because people are fundamentally social creatures. There are plenty of examples of new ways of providing meaningful activity during this crisis, so the challenge now is to make sure we learn what worked well during the crisis, and what can be integrated into a post virus care sector.

To keep up-to-date with the latest guidance and support in response to COVID-19 at www.skillsforcare.org.uk

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