Shona, a senior support worker from Falkirk, describes how she and her team reimagined the support they provide in light of the pandemic.

I’m Shona MacLean, the Senior Support Worker for the Falkirk community in (Scotland). Starting as a support worker who knew very little about social care, within a year I took the plunge and made it to Senior! I work mainly in the Falkirk community but also support people in their homes once or twice a week. I love Thera’s vision and have drawn on a part of it here today.

Part of Thera’s vision is: ‘People with a learning disability will design the support they want from Thera’. This means that we support people to live the life they choose. So, how do we continue to thrive from that vision, when everywhere has been locked down, and travel restrictions in place? That requires a little planning and a whole lot of imagination!

In Falkirk we reimagined one gentleman’s weekly activities. We started off small adding in more sensory activities – from making gloop to rice sensory bottles and sensory baking. A planned garden picnic was expertly transformed into a ‘day at the beach’ indoors by our Team Co-ordinator Jill.  When the sun didn’t appear outside she created a paddling pool, wave sounds, picnic set up, sun hats and sunshades! Soon my imagination started flowing. We used to go out for coffee every day, but now we have instant coffee. A coffee machine, some posters and treats and background music turned the spare room into a Costa Coffee and Tim Hortons. The gentleman we were supporting to do all these activities has enjoyed being a part of them. Especially when we went ‘all out’ to make the activity as close to ‘normal’ as possible.

Some activities required more planning than others, but was totally worth it! We really had to think outside the box and do things that we didn’t expect! I mean just how do you transport a filled ‘pond’ with mud, leaves, fishing nets and plastic fish outside through two rooms, a hallway and a step, without flooding the house? Our community support has been that bit harder, however we did not forget about people. Microsoft Teams to the rescue for a birthday party and phone calls to others!

When it was safe enough to start going out again, we discovered a liking for walks. This would have never been something some community folks would have picked before. Gradually food places began to open- (and funfairs!) and we got to play our part in supporting these venues whilst learning to keep safe. A big part of our support before COVID-19 consisted of socialising- coffee mornings, lunch club, tea dance, disco. To try keep the sociable aspect going, we have enjoyed using Microsoft Teams and Zoom to catch up with families, take part in quizzes and to have a virtual coffee morning! We have also enjoyed taking part in competitions recently such as a Halloween dress up and a Christmas card competition.

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