As we begin cautiously to come out of lockdown, I thought this was a good time to update parents and Carers of our day service customers on how Surrey Choices is doing and how we plan to move forward in the shorter and longer term.
Over the past five months everything has been turned upside down for all of us. Surrey Choices took immediate steps to suspend normal services in order to ensure that we could keep safe the people we support and our employees, and we carried on providing emergency assistance to those that needed it, as well as keeping in regular contact with all our customers. Throughout lockdown we have also supported the social care sector in Surrey by providing care staff to residential care providers who were critically short, by helping Surrey County Council to distribute PPE to domiciliary care providers, and by supporting local district and borough councils in providing assistance to older and vulnerable people. We have been delighted to have been able to support the local care sector and the brilliant care workers in the very important work that they do, and to also help everyone to stay safe.
I know the pandemic will have taken its toll on everyone over the past five months; it has been a strange time for all of us, and for those with additional needs and their families and Carers, some of whom may also be particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, being in lockdown will have added an additional strain. You will naturally be wondering when things will begin to feel more normal; some of you will be worried and anxious, and others keen to get going more quickly. That is all perfectly natural and our priority will always be keep people safe and work at a pace that is acceptable to individuals.
As you will no doubt know from our website, Surrey Choices is now in what we are calling ‘Stage 2’ of our recovery plan. That means that we are taking small steps towards increasing the support we provide to people who live alone or with families, and prioritising those we are supporting in work or who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, as well as those who have needed to access Short Breaks Banstead and of course our Shared Lives carers. We are providing care and support both at home and close to home and slowly increasing our face to face contact by staff in all our services.
This is supported by an online programme of live and recorded sessions, alongside helping lots of people to get online for the first time to make sure they are connected through our digital inclusion project.
I am proud of how creative our staff have been and how well they have adapted to new ways of working, and I thank you for ongoing support and patience through these difficult times. As we go forward, we will continually assess the safety of what we are doing, and we will continue to increase the volume and range of support we provide.
As we take steps to extend our offer across all of our services, we are of course keeping in mind and refreshing our future plans, making sure that we stay on course. Here’s a quick reminder about the things we have been working on:
During the autumn 2019, we launched our Changing Days programme. Changing Days is about how we support people to live good lives, to be included, be healthy and to be as independent as possible. We held a series of Listening Events and a Festival of Ideas where over 400 people told us about their vision for future. The outcome of all this is that we will be working hard to make sure that the support we provide in future will be more person centred, be provided closer to where people live and be focused on including people in their local communities as much as possible. We will be supporting people in their ambition to learn new skills, to enter the world of work, to learn to travel and to look after their own physical and mental health. We will also make sure that those with complex needs who require high levels of support and special environments, will have the support they need.
Over time that means making changes to the places and the way that we provide support. Our ultimate aim is to make sure that the people we support are not segregated but included in communities as valued citizens. We will share more details as they emerge, and we look forward to talking more with everyone about it.
To start the conversation, we will be inviting parents and Carers to virtual information meetings over the next few weeks. There will be two meetings in each of our three areas (North, West, East) and I hope you can join us. If you are not able to join in, then there will be an opportunity to submit questions. So, please look out for the invitation.
Surrey Choices is keen to continue to communicate and we welcome your suggestions and ideas. In April 2020 we published our most recent Newsletter; if you didn’t see it, you can read it here. If you don’t have access to the internet and would like a hard copy, please do let us know.
We are relying more and more on online communications and we want to make sure no one is left out. If you don’t have online access we would be delighted to help and advise you, please contact us on email@example.com or call us on the mainline number: 01483 806806.
Of course, if you have questions about the local service you are connected with or the care you are receiving, it is always best to contact the service directly. I hope you have found this update helpful and I and colleagues look forward to meeting with many of you virtually over the coming weeks.
Mette Le Jakobsen