"We have tried to keep things going even when the whole world has stopped"

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Service Manager

There are so many amazing things that happen when you work and support people.

My name is Bekki and I am the Service Manager of a Supported Living Service for four adults with learning disabilities in Midhurst. We support our clients to live their lives as independently and meaningfully as possible.

I never intended to do this job but when I started support work I fell in love with it. It’s amazing! The smallest things can change someone’s whole life and we get to support them with aspects they need help with. I love this job!

As a Manager the majority of my hours are office-based but I make sure I do at least one shift a week on the floor, supporting clients directly. It’s so important that I know the clients really well and that they know me.

Staffing in this sector is hard but since the pandemic it’s become even harder. But Midhurst is very community based and it’s all about keeping things positive.

Our clients had busy social lives before the pandemic and so we’ve tried to replicate activities at home. So now we have bingo nights and movie nights at the service!

There’s so much art and craft here and we’ve been celebrating a different day each week. For St George’s Day we had a cardboard cut-out dragon and we had staff going round in the garden pretending to slay a dragon! The clients found it hilarious! We had a client’s birthday which we turned into a Mardi Gras, we had VE day with lots of planes on the corridor wall and the toilet was transformed into a bomb shelter! Our clients got really involved and took it all in. To be able to walk into work and have lots of fun took away the anxiety around the virus for all of us.

Over the summer, the corridor had a beach theme with underwater crabs, octopuses, a shark, a treasure chest, the Titanic sinking, and a massive palm tree with a monkey, lemur, and coconut!

During the first lockdown all of our food shopping was delivered by Southdown’s temporary Food Order and Delivery Service which was such a help and brilliant. We also had a weekly delivery of fresh fruit, veg, and meat from the local shop which was lovely and came with a big discount! It all worked really well because our clients could still be involved in cooking their meals.

We wear PPE all the time. During the heatwave it was very very hot. Even without the heat it’s a challenge, especially in the mornings when we’re busy getting people up for the day. It’s now become very much part of the routine for staff but to start off with it was very strange and it took a while for clients to get used to. For people who are non-verbal, facial expressions are important and now all they can see are our eyes.

I’ve had lots of support from my Manager and as a team we support each other. There are changes to guidance all the time and my team are aware that what happens today might change tomorrow.

Everything has changed and everyone has had to adapt. I’ve had to be resilient and it’s made me more confident in my role because we’ve had lots of things to do. At times it has been stressful – not just at work but in outside life as well, and I make sure I switch that off when I come into work so that I can support my staff who are working so amazingly and have the same pressures.

For staff it’s been really difficult, people are still caring for others at home, they have families. We have to make sure work is as safe as possible for them – and still an enjoyable place for them to come.

Sometimes the media can focus on the negative parts of this sector but there are so many amazing things that happen when you work and support people. The clients have coped so so well with the big changes that have happened in their lives, and the support staff are doing a fantastic job helping them be healthy and happy.

We have tried to make everything as normal as possible. All the staff here are so passionate about the clients and love their jobs. We have tried to keep things going even when the whole world has stopped.

 

Southdown manages supported living services across Sussex. Supported living is where an individual owns or rents their own home and has control over the support they get and how they live their lives. Accommodation and support is provided separately. It can be very different for different people. For one person, supported living might be a few hours of support a week to enable them to live independently by themselves in a rented flat. For another it may be around the clock support in a shared house or self-contained flat.