Karen O’Neill joined the Short Breaks service as its new Registered Manager towards the end of 2021. She brings a wealth of knowledge from her 30 year career in the Adult Social Care sector. Here she talks about settling into the role and some of the changes she is already making at our Short Breaks service in Banstead.
Joining Surrey Choices in October 2021 meant that my first few months in the role have not been without their challenges. Covid-19 security measures for care homes have needed to be strictly adhered to, and at times there has been pressures on both staffing and occupancy. However, the team has been very welcoming and everyone in the organisation has been extremely supportive.
We currently have around 30 people, who regularly use the Short Breaks service. All have care plans which are person-centred towards the care they require. We host people with varying levels of support needs, including profound and multiple learning disabilities, and behaviours that challenge.
The home has a lovely atmosphere. Our guests seem to really enjoy their stays, and lately we have been able to start going out into the wider community again. People have taken the local bus to places of interest and gone for walks. More of the staff team have taken their driving tests and with access to the minibus, we are beginning to develop a broader range of interesting activities.
More daily living skills
I realise that there is a longer term goal of relocating the service. However, there is lots that we can do in the meantime. I want the people we support to do a lot more activities, so that they really want to come here. Afterall it is their break and should be enjoyable. I am introducing more daily living skills, such as baking and cleaning. Learning new skills or improving the ones people already have, enables them to become more independent and experience greater inclusion in everyday life.
More sensory equipment
Many of the people we support have very high sensory needs, so we would like more sensory equipment. I am gradually building up our collection, but of course, we would like even more.
In addition, I want to look at exploiting more of the opportunities available across other services in Surrey Choices.
More day-time activities
It would be great to get our guests meeting new people by being involved in other day-time activities. I am already in contact with the Team Manager at Fernleigh, one of our Community Hubs located in Walton-on-Thames. We are going to join in with some of the pottery and cookery classes, as well as day trips. A more regular calendar of events will require a bit of juggling and scheduled access to a minibus, but it will really augment the experience of those guests who have the potential to join in.
In January, six of our guests went on a Surrey Outdoor Learning and Development course. This was a first for Short Breaks, but it will not be the last. People really enjoyed the experience, which was both challenging and enjoyable. We have had a great response from the families.
Working closely with families
I believe it is so important to work closely with people’s families and build up a good relationship prior to a family’s loved one coming to stay with us. This means, if required, we can be supportive even from a distance. We are always available to listen if family members have concerns or need to book at short notice due. This can be because someone unexpectedly becomes unwell or other circumstances change.
My aim is to deliver an outstanding Short Breaks service that people want to come back to again and again.
About Short Breaks
The Short Breaks service at Surrey Choices provides overnight stays for people with complex support needs. It is registered and regulated by The Care Quality Commission and rated Good. The property in Banstead is wheelchair accessible and has six bright, modern bedrooms, each with a television and wifi.
Whether you are a social care practitioner or someone who is eligible for Local Authority Funding, or a private funder, please get in touch with Karen and her team, if you know someone who would benefit from a short break away.
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