A Message from Mette Le Jakobsen, Managing Director – Friday 16 October 2020

This week the Government announced the introduction of a new 3 Tier Local Covid Alert Level  system for England based on prevalence of Covid-19 in any given area. On 15 October it was announced that Elmbridge Borough will move into Tier 2 from 17 October 2020, meaning the area is now deemed an area of HIGH risk. All other areas of Surrey remain at Tier 1, Medium Risk. Please refer to the Elmbridge Borough Council notice here for further advice on what this means for communities in Elmbridge.

 

Surrey Choices continues to monitor the situation and to apply careful risk analysis to all our activities. The 3 Tier regulations apply to communities in general, with adult social care activities being exempt from the regulations in certain situations where the need to provide care is required. Surrey Choices continues to provide all of its activities as described below, throughout the County, whilst being mindful to take account of the balance of risks for every individual we support, their families, and our colleagues.

 

I last provided you with an update at the end of September, setting out the steps we were taking to begin widening the range of support we can provide whilst ensuring that we keep everyone safe. Since then, all our services have incrementally increased the number of people, as well as the volume, of support they provide. As per our recovery plan, this is a gradually evolving scenario with adjustments being made every day to respond to individual circumstances. 

 

Our colleagues are adjusting to their new ways of working and teams are working continuously to solve the kinds of issues that can arise when responding to ever-changing Government guidance. I want to assure everyone that safety is our priority, and we continually assess the safety of our activities. Please be assured that our employees have access to all of the PPE they require, and we regularly update our guidance in line with Government advice on this and other precautions such as enhanced cleaning, hygiene and social distancing.

 

Our recovery plan allows us to take steps back as well as forward in response to local and national conditions. Our current assessment is that we will continue to progress cautiously, but we continue to monitor local conditions. 

We ask that you do your bit by ensuring that you let us know if you, or the person you support, has symptoms which could be Covid-19 related, and by ensuring that you provide face coverings for wearing in environments where social distancing is not possible, such as shops, as per Government guidance.

 

All that said, we are excited to be doing more of what we love: Supporting disabled and autistic people with their health and wellbeing in pursuing the things they love to do, whilst also ensuring that families and Carers get breaks from caring. 

 

Here is an overview of how our services are currently operating:


Day Services:

Within our day services we are doing all we can to manage the balance between keeping people safe from the virus, but also from the impact that an extended lockdown is having on some people and their families. In addition, as we ramp up the support we provide, we are endeavouring to do this in a way that supports people to safely have access to a range of community based activities in line with what people told us through the Changing Days programme.

 

  • We are prioritising support for people who live alone or with family Carers and other individuals where it has been identified as being in greatest need.
  • Support continues to be provided where possible to and from people’s homes, with more people now safely accessing community-based activities, such as libraries and leisure centres. This includes supporting people in small bubbles in their local communities.
  • We are providing some limited support in six of our buildings, where people are unable to be supported at or from their home.
  • Our digital programme continues to develop at pace, with over 60 zoom sessions now being provided per week, which has enabled people to maintain contact with friends and help reduce the risks associated with an extended lockdown.
  • We have supported over 90 people through our digital inclusion project, with trained ‘digitisers’ visiting people to help them get online, and by providing IT equipment and internet access.
  • We are continuing to provide both remote and direct welfare support to people and their families via telephone calls and visits where needed.
  • Where people need support with transport, we are gradually increasing the provision, but this remains only when it is absolutely required, and someone cannot get help with travel from their family or the people they live with. 
  • While at this time we want to avoid supporting large groups within our buildings due the risks associated with the virus, we are currently identifying how we can open up some additional buildings that will act as a base from which people will be able to access other community resources as well as receive some direct support. We will be providing further information regarding this at the end of September.


Vocational Projects:

  • Our Growth Team in the West remains open, slowly increasing the volume of support they provide. The team also continues to support their colleagues in other teams and services, with ideas for outdoor activities to connect with nature and learn about horticulture and wildlife.  
  • We are working on a project plan to enable the safe opening of our other Vocational Projects within the next two months.  This will include our other horticultural activities, the Choices Café in Banstead and our Office projects in all areas. 


EmployAbility and Future Choices:

  • Future Choices is welcoming new pre-interns this month, and the team will be working hard to secure work placements to meet the outcomes and aspirations of each individual, complementing on-job experience with creative programmes of virtual learning, job clubs and activities to support wellbeing during this difficult time. 
  • EmployAbility are supporting people who are re-entering the workplace after being furloughed, and sadly also now support people who have been laid off as a result of the pandemic’s impact on employment. 
  • We are thrilled to have supported a significant number of key workers to keep working throughout the pandemic, people who have been working in retail, hospitals, deliveries etc. and have also secured new paid outcomes for some individuals despite the increase in unemployment statistics.
  • The team is gradually increasing face to face contact and direct support, whilst continuing to effectively use remote technologies.
  • Our work supporting students at schools and colleges continued during the lockdown, using technology.  We are delighted that all of our education partners have confirmed they wish us to continue supporting young people with SEND in their employment journey throughout the new academic year, and our EmployAbility teams are prepared for September/October term starts. 

 

Short Breaks Banstead:

  • The residential service in Banstead has continued to provide essential respite support to our customers and their families throughout the pandemic and has now safely increased to their full capacity of six beds.
  • Enhanced hygiene measures and cleaning regimes are in place to ensure that we keep everyone safe; staff have access to the PPE they need and are invited to undergo regular Covid-19 testing.
  • We will be telephoning all our customers during the coming weeks to ensure that we have accurate information regarding the need for respite.  If you previously accessed the service and would like to recommence support, please contact the service direct to express an interest.

 

FlexiChoices:

  • For those who require respite and who may not yet wish to make use of the overnight service at Short Breaks Banstead, our new FlexiChoices flexible breaks service might be of interest.
  • FlexiChoices provides evening and weekend activities to enable Carers to have a break. 
  • The service is funded by a Government Covid-19 grant, and eligibility for the service is determined by Surrey County Council.
  • If you would like to find out more, please contact the team via the contact details below.


Shared Lives:

  • Our Shared Lives Carers continue to provide vital care and support to settled placements and are also providing crisis support to those who need it.
  • Respite services recommenced in August.  Individuals and Carers participating are invited to undergo regular Covid-19 testing and robust risk assessment measures are in place to ensure safe practice and peace of mind.
  • We continue to welcome referrals and applications from prospective Carers; our Shared Lives team are working hard to progress these in a Covid-secure way.  

 

Our senior staff and back office teams (Human Resources, Finance, IT, Quality Assurance, Communications and Marketing) continue to support the organisation remotely and access to office spaces is limited to a small number of people who need to come in for essential reasons.

 

Providing Government guidance does not change, we anticipate that Stage 2 of our recovery plan will be put in place during September and into October, and we will update this page in due course with further details.

 

We continue to welcome referrals, whether for short term support during the pandemic, or for ongoing support. If you or a family member are already receiving support from us and you have questions or concerns, please do contact the team on 01483 806806 or via email talktous@surreychoices.com or simply call the local team directly.

 

If you are a commissioner or practitioner wishing to make an inquiry, we would be delighted to hear from you; please use the contact details above.

 

We recognise that for some individuals and families, the extended time in lockdown and the relatively cautious approach to our recovery will be placing an additional strain on you, and we thank you for your continued support and patience. Please do not struggle in silence; if we need to increase your support then please do get in touch with your service.

 

We are thankful for all the support and well wishes we have received during the pandemic and wish all our customers, families, friends and associates good health and wellbeing.

 

Please take care and stay safe. 

 

Mette Le Jakobsen

Managing Director