A Message from Mette Le Jakobsen, Managing Director – Friday 24 July 2020


Over the past month, the world has started to open up gradually, with a bewildering array of announcements and guidance from the Government for different circumstances, environments and businesses. I hope you have been keeping safe and well and are getting the support you need during these difficult times.

 

I last provided you with an update at the end of June, setting out our preparations for Stage 2 of our recovery plan, which commenced on 6 July. We are now three weeks into our plan and I am able to update you on the steps we have taken to increase our support to people and to keeping everyone safe.

 

Before I so do however, I must pay tribute to our wonderful, talented and committed colleagues who every day put their all into ensuring that we are supporting vulnerable people and families to stay safe during these confusing and worrying times. They have been creative, compassionate and flexible, showing great fortitude and teamwork, learning from each other and sharing and finding new skills. I am very proud to be working with such a great team of dedicated people.

 

I want to assure everyone that safety is our priority, and we assess daily the safety of our activities and take gradual steps to increase the volume and breadth of support that we provide. Our recovery plan allows us to take steps back as well as forward in response to local and national conditions, and in case of what is widely expected to be a second wave of infections later in the year. 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.

 

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’s an overview of what we’ve been doing:


Day Services:

  • We are prioritising those who live alone or with families and have responded to surveys asking everyone how they would like us to go forward. Initial support arrangements have been made for all those individuals and families who have asked us to restart face to face support.
  • Most of our support is taking place at home, or close to home, with increasing use of community and outdoor spaces; this is becoming easier as the weeks go on and we have seen some very successful and imaginative ways to connect people.
  • Our Digital Choices programme of live and recorded sessions via Zoom have been several weeks in the making and they formally launched for booking via our website earlier this week; you can find them by clicking here. Some sessions are specific to certain groups of people, and some are open to all.
  • Digital Inclusion project: ‘Digitisers’ from around Surrey Choices have been assisting people who were unable to get online, connecting people with each other, enabling access to the Digital Choices programme described above, and most importantly preventing isolation and loneliness. Digitisers provide practical support and have access to devices funded by the Community Foundation for Surrey; we will continue this work into the future.
  • We continue to make regular welfare calls and to provide activity materials to those who need to remain at home.
  • A few Activity Hubs are providing crisis support to a small number of people for whom this is the best solution to their particular circumstances. This will remain a very restricted offer as congregating people in places will not be a viable option for some time to come.
  • We are asking people who need to access a hub to provide their own transport in so far as it’s possible, as travelling in close proximity is still considered unsafe so we want to avoid that as much as we can.


Vocational Projects:

  • Our Growth Team in the West is now up and running again, slowly increasing the volume of support they provide. The team has also provided brilliant ideas for outdoor activities for other teams to try, connecting with nature and learning about wildlife.
  • We are currently looking at our other horticultural activities to see if it’s safe to open those, e.g. the Garden Centre in Redhill and the Laleham Project. We are also working on options for the Choices Café in Banstead.
  • Our Office Projects remain suspended along with most of our Activity Hubs for the time being.


EmployAbility & Future Choices:

  • Last year’s intake of Future Choices Pre-Interns have now concluded their course and we are busy preparing for this year’s intake. We are still accepting referrals.
  • 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 impact of the pandemic 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.
  • The team is increasing face to face contact and direct support all the time, whilst continuing to effectively use remote technologies.
  • Job clubs and group activities will continue to be provided virtually.
  • Our work supporting students at schools and colleges has continued during the lockdown using technology.  We are delighted all of our education partners have confirmed they wish us to continue working with young people with SEND to support them in their employment journey in the next academic year. 

 

Short Breaks Banstead:

  • The service has increased their capacity to 4-5 beds and will gradually build up to the full capacity of 6 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.
  • If you previously accessed the service and would like to recommence support, please contact the service direct to express an interest.


Shared Lives:

  • Our Shared Lives Carers continue to provide vital care and support to settled placements and are also providing crisis support to those that need it.
  • Respite is being scheduled to start from next month (August), but being careful to work at a pace that everyone is comfortable with.
  • To support scheduled respite and to keep everyone safe, we are inviting Carers to be Covid-19 tested.

Our senior staff and back office teams (Human Resources, Finance, IT, Quality Assurance, Communications and Marketing) will continue to support the organisation remotely and access to office spaces will be 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 in place during August and September, 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.

 

I 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, and I thank you for your continued support and patience. Please don’t 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. Thank you.

 

Mette Le Jakobsen,
Managing Director