Throughout April, three family and Carer meetings were held:
- Monday 19 April 2021, North Surrey
- Friday 23 April 2021, West Surrey
- Wednesday 28 April 2021, East Surrey
Please click below to see a combined write up of all Questions and Answers asked during these three meetings.
Combined Engagement Meetings Questions and Answers
Attendees from Surrey Choices:
Jerry Ratcliff Chief Operating Officer
Anne Shiels Senior Operations Manager
Plus senior staff from each area (as applicable), families, Carers and the people we support
Anne gave a presentation about Person Centred Planning (PCP), explaining this is a conversation being held with every person Surrey Choices supports to find out what activities they would like to access, what their wishes and aspirations are and how we can help them to achieve them.
My relative struggled with the questions on the Person Centred Plans, they were just too complex for them to follow. Can they be simplified?
Anne: We have different formats of questions to suit different communication needs, I’m sorry your relative had difficulties, I will feed that back to see if we can improve it going forward and use formats that suit your relative.
Is there a prospective date in mind for when people will be able to go back into services?
Jerry: There is information on our website, which we are updating fortnightly. Between now and June we are increasing support in buildings and into the community so that when we get to the go-date of 21 June we’re as close as we can be back to a normal service, and we will be in contact with you over the next 2-3 weeks to communicate that. Over 80% of our staff have been vaccinated but we are still asking them to wear masks and gloves as well, just to be safe.
Do you have any news on Lockwood reopening?
It will be within the next few weeks. We are working on finding better, alternative locations but we will be using Lockwood in the meantime for those individuals that need a building base to support their needs, and increasing community activities as identified in each individual’s Person Centred Plan.
Can we have a date for when Camberley is likely to open again? My relative needs building-based support.
Jerry: We want to get back to being open quickly, but must do this safely. The recovery plan on our website is being updated fortnightly so the latest information is there. We are increasing support so that by June we’ll be up to as near to normal levels as we can. There are likely to be restrictions on the number of people we can support in a building, but most staff have now had their second jabs, as well as many of the people we support so we should be able to safely increase the numbers, but our staff will still be wearing full PPE.
Are you opening up Fairways? On Fridays I do drama, is that going to continue?
Jerry: Drama is something we will absolutely keep doing, along with dance. We know how important it is to people, and we will continue it, but we are looking at doing it in a proper drama or dance studio.
Karen: We’re also looking at doing Starstruck in the park on Thursdays, we’re just deciding which park it’s going to be and who will run it, but we will let you know.
As Ashford Office Project is a shared building, is it likely it’s going to open?
Jerry: As it’s a shared building I hope not, but that depends on us finding better premises. I’m meeting later this afternoon with our Vocational Projects Manager to talk about that. There are buildings out there better than the Office Projects building, and hopefully we can give you an update within the next month.
The people I support used to go to Woodmansterne on Fridays, I see there are no plans to open that yet, is that long term?
Anne: That’s under review in our property strategy planning. We know some people will still need a base when they access the community. Over the last 8-9 months we’ve done a mapping exercise, to look at where people live, where our employees live and what activities there are in the local area that people could access. If it’s in their Person Centred Plan that they need special facilities then we will continue to do that from buildings, but going forward they have to be properly equipped and in the correct locations.
Will you be reopening Walton on the Hill?
Anne: If we’ve identified people in the area who need a building as I’ve described above, we’ll look at our plans. Some of our locations are very spread out and historically we have had people travelling long distances on minibuses, sometimes up to 1½ hours at each end of the day, it’s not ideal for people to spend large parts of their days on buses. We want to reduce time spent travelling by accessing services within peoples’ communities, whether that’s something new or something they used to access in the past, it depends on what’s in their PCP. That said, the mapping exercise has been completed across the whole of Surrey Choices, so for instance where people have developed friendships over Zoom, we would look to see if we can maintain those friendship groups and help develop new friendships.
Is the Cottage opening soon?
Anne: That’s part of our property review plan. The people who attend The Cottage are of an older age so we are currently supporting them with their PCPs to establish how best to meet their needs.
Will the Cottage still be geared for people with dementia?
Anne: Once we have established the building base requirement, we may have to configure the internal layout differently so it’s not so compact, however there is a lovely garden we could use. But if people want support in their homes or in their local communities, this is the kind of service we want to offer.
Can we have a progress report on the Knowle opening, or Thameside – what are the timeframes?
Jerry: I have a meeting with Surrey County Council’s Assistant Director for Property this afternoon, so I will be able to report back then. We may have to go back into the Knowle until Thameside is ready for handover. With regard to the Knowle, the issues with the water are resolved now and we are arranging a deep clean of the building. We will need to use the Knowle on an interim basis until Thameside is ready. It is being used as a Covid testing centre at the moment but it is likely we can take it over in the summer.
In the meantime we are looking at what support we can provide in the community which is not building based and to also continue providing support from Nexus and Fernleigh.
Karen: we’re having conversations about the use of a local hydrotherapy pool and rebound therapy in the community.
Why have Surrey Choices gone to the trouble of getting the Knowle working if they are going to be moving out soon?
Jerry: The Knowle has come to the end of its useful life, the building isn’t fit for purpose any more. It’s too big for what we need, costs a fortune to run and the quality of the building is not what we want, Thameside offers us much more flexibility. The whole point of Changing Days is that we want people to be integral in their community but we know we need buildings to provide resources such as Changing Places and specialised training areas. The plan for Thameside is that we’ll only be there for about 3-4 years, then the plan is to move into a long term setting integrated with the Libraries, Youth Services and Adult Education.
Thank you for all the hard work which has meant Nexus can reopen. My relative had 3 days a week support there, will they be able to have that again? My relative can’t travel independently, will they be able to go to snooker, golf, bowling etc.
Jerry: That’s our immediate vision, particularly with golf, we can do that outside already. We’re doing the PCPs to identify how people need support, and if it is identified some of that needs to be building based, then that’s what will happen. If they need support with using public transport or if they need specialist transport, it is available.
You say you’re building somewhere with youth groups, day centres etc. is the long term plan to shut places like Fernleigh and Nexus and have it all in one building?
Jerry: Long term, we are changing how we use our buildings. The buildings have served us well but we know that the segregated model isn’t what people want any more and we are looking at alternatives, but be assured any changes we make will be to better premises; Better equipped, better located. We have a building in Redhill going live soon, it has activity rooms, level access and Changing Places. It’s not necessarily bigger but it is well configured and makes better use of the space.
My relative has been attending the Knowle for over 30 years, routine is everything for them. They are used to attending the Knowle for three days a week, what’s the timescale for any information to be sent out about that?
Anne: We have more than 600 people accessing our Day Services, broken down into cohorts. The first cohort of 92 people have been supported with a PCP and we are working jointly with Surrey County Council’s locality team to review the plans to ensure we can provide support to meet individual’s needs. Once we have completed the first cohort and we have identified the needs and outcomes of each individual, we will then start on the next cohort group. If we’ve not been in touch yet regarding supporting your Family member with their PCP, please bear with us, we will be in contact with you soon.
Jerry: When we look at PCPs it’s not just looking at activities that people want to do, it’s also making sure we identify and maintain the friendship groups that people have so we are focusing on the services where the changes will be happening sooner rather than later.
For someone with autism, routine and structure is important. If they don’t have that security it will impact their behaviours.
Jerry: We recognise there isn’t an approach that will suit everyone, and while we need the flexibility to have individual programmes, we also appreciate that some people need to have somewhere to go, and we will build that into their plan.
I’ve looked at the new building, and it looks as though people could use it as a base to do an activity outside of the building, but it looks as though you can’t be there all day.
Jerry: It’s about having a resource in a local area and having the opportunity to access more things in the community, but that doesn’t mean activities in buildings will stop. The buildings will still be there, offering the resources for those who need it.
It’s not done my relative any good at all being at home for a year and a month.
Jerry: We’re hoping to get the Knowle up and running asap. As soon as the deep cleaning is done, which should be in the next 3 weeks or so, we’ll then be able to open the building to those that require building based support and also continue to use the facilities in the community.
My relative was going to have 1:1 sessions just before the Knowle closed, will that continue when we go back?
Anne: When we do the reviews with Surrey County Council we will discuss that with them, but I’m assuming if it was assessed that your relative needed 1:1 support before the pandemic then we will take it up again.
In the minutes of the last meeting you mentioned organising individual gym memberships for people so that they can attend in the evenings and at weekends. There are a lot of customers who need support for activities, is there a plan to go with them, support them while they are there and then come back with them?
Jerry: In the past, people would do their gym activities in a separate room with a coach. If we bought them a gym membership the bonus of this is that it can be used in the evening and at weekends too, so people can join sessions in the community with a family member, or go on their own at the weekend if they wish. It’s a better way to engage people with the gym independently. That said, if going to the gym is part of their support plan, then we will go with them. It’s about making the support more tailored to individuals, but the support will be there.
My relative will find it difficult to go back to the building, it would be good if it was only for 1-2 days per week to begin with.
Jerry: We are mindful some people will find it harder. We’ll work with the team to take it at the right pace for them and support any community based activities they wish to access.
I’m worried I won’t know anyone when I go back.
Jerry: I think that’s Rodney House you’re referring to, but I will ask them next time I speak to them and we will let you know.
When I go to Mencap, will things go on as before?
Jerry: I’m afraid I can’t say for Mencap, but I’m wondering as we move further into the year maybe we could do a ‘welcome back’ event for Surrey Choices people, maybe at Fernleigh?
My daughter has been working at Office Projects, when is she going to be supported back to work again? She’s had no support for a long time now.
Jerry: We have a new Vocational Projects Manager, who is looking to make sure we can provide a pathway to work, and that the work people do is relevant to today’s jobs market. Ashford Office Project is not something we can open up straight away as it’s a shared building.
My relative has vocational qualifications which are not being used.
Jerry: Can I suggest you talk with Karen about this separately? She can include our EmployAbility team to see if there’s a scheme which will suit your relative.
Can we have a list of the activities which are available in buildings please?
Jerry: Part of the PCPs is for people to tell us what they want to do, not for us to tell people what they can do. But to make it easier, we will attach a list of activities to these meeting notes and put them online.
Karen: We already know people like to do crafts, boccia and drama, but if that’s not what your relative wants to do then we can talk that through with them.
Jerry: We can support travel in a variety of ways too, via public transport or minibus, however it suits your relative.
What guidance are you following? The building in Hampshire that my relative attends is a similar size to the Ian Goodchild Centre and that one is already open.
Jerry: Surrey hasn’t had any specific guidance from the Government so we’re following the general guidance and have our Recovery Plan, which you can locate on our website.
What’s happening about transport? Will the buses be available for activities and trips to, say, the library?
Jerry: Transport won’t be a problem. We have bought the buses we had previously leased. We just need to work out where we need them and when, and the social distancing once on board to keep everyone safe. The community transport offer will still be available, I have spoken with their Managing Director recently to confirm that.
Before the lockdown, if people needed to be picked up from home and brought back again, then that will resume. We will be looking to do travel training for those people who can and want to travel independently. Travel generally will improve as restrictions ease but be assured, for those who need buses they will be available.
You say about being based outside the buildings, how are you going to transport people to these activities? Sometimes you can’t fit many onto a bus, and there are limited buses and drivers.
Karen: We have bought our minibuses and the services are working collectively as a team so we’ll have quite a few drivers available, together with more resources.
Jerry: We’ve also met with community transport businesses, who can help us. People should be spending less time on buses than in the past, partly because we are changing our staffing patterns to start earlier in the day to support people learning to travel independently, and partly because activities will be taking place in peoples’ local communities.
I know your old Mid and East have amalgamated, in the mid historically there’s been a feeling that it has been a bit ‘left behind’. If your staff don’t have transport and public transport is really poor, will individuals have to pay for taxis?
Anne: The mapping exercise details where our employees live so we can see who is geographically closer to hubs or the people we support and we can match them with people nearby so we can support them using our own transport or public transport, we’re not expecting people to get taxis into our services. We used to lease a fleet of 13 vehicles but we have now purchased all of them and we have staff who are licensed to drive minibuses so if there is a scenario like you describe, the minibus could pick them up if the person could not be supported on public transport. Some of our employees have also requested to use their own cars to pick people up if they live close to an individual and we are working on a policy to make sure the people we support and our employees are doing that in a safe way.
A lot of your staff don’t seem to want to drive the minibuses. There seems to be a lack of drivers from Priory Gate.
Anne: Now we’ve done the mapping exercise we can draw on the whole of the East area to find available drivers and locate the minibuses as per demand.
I don’t want my relative to be in the centre 5 days a week, but transport does concern me.
Lisa: We are looking at the East area as a whole, moving employees from other Surrey Choices locations to mix and match wherever there is a particular need so we can increase our community outreach service.
My relative will miss being in a building, and miss their friends.
Jerry: Through the PCPs we find out not just what people want to do, but who they want to do it with. We are looking at maintaining and developing friendships as we go forward.
This meeting didn’t seem to be very well advertised, we only found out about it yesterday.
Jerry: I’m sorry, I don’t know what went wrong there. We sent invitations out about three weeks ago but for the next meeting we will send invitations by email and hard copy, 2-3 weeks in advance. We’ll also include an agenda so that you can prepare your questions in advance.
Are you going to be starting on the support plans soon?
Cathy: Yes. One of our staff will be in touch with you and your relative to go through it with you.
Anne: Once we have completed that it will give us a clear picture of what your relative wants to achieve, so we can develop an individually tailored plan to support them in accessing new activities, developing new skills and independence.
How are the 1:1s going to be funded?
Anne: We’re working with Surrey County Council, jointly reviewing the support plans. If someone’s plan identifies 1:1 support then that’s covered by our block contract. If their support needs have changed and there is new 1:1 support needed then that will be factored into their review.
If my relative doesn’t necessarily need 1:1 support but they are the only person who wants to do a particular activity, how will that work?
If it’s support that’s needed for a short term activity or a one-off such as going to the cinema then we would provide it. If it was a long term need, for something running over a number of months then we would need to request additional funding to meet that.
For activities in the evenings, we are conducting a flexible working consultation with our employees. The PCPs are showing that some of the people we support want to access activities in the evening and at weekends, such as going to a leisure centre or the cinema, and our flexible working arrangements mean that’s something we’ll be able to factor in.
The people I support are currently doing a two-hour session in a centre. Will you be moving to session-based support, or is it daily?
Anne: Our recovery plan follows Government guidelines to ensure we are Covid secure, and as lockdown eases we want to increase that support. We had two buildings open in each of our areas and we are now increasing the support we provide so that by 21 June when (hopefully) everything is back, we’ll be looking to provide the same amount of support as we did prior to lockdown. If your relative had a support plan of five days a week, we will slowly build that up to ensure we can manage the risks in a safe way.
My relative struggles with online sessions.
Lisa: The PCPs will help to highlight who wants to continue online sessions or what else they might like to do, we want to give people different opportunities.
A lot of what you’re saying is geared towards more able people, there’s not a lot offered for those less able. Are you still going to have a day centre available 5 days a week for those who need it?
Lisa: Yes. There will always be a need for building based service and we want to make sure we have purpose led services for customers. Unfortunately some of our buildings are not well equipped or in easily accessible locations and we want to have buildings which meet peoples’ needs. Also, we want to use buildings as a base to provide sensory support but ensuring that we are giving everyone who uses our service an opportunity to access local community activities .
So there will always be a daily service from 9.30am-4pm for those who need it?
Lisa: Yes, but we want to open that up into evenings and weekends as well.
Anne: In the autumn of 2019 we had the Festival of Ideas and Listening Events and the outcome of those was that some families wanted more evening and weekend sessions. Our services will open 9am-9pm, 7 days a week but it’s down to individuals when they require their support, be it during the day, the evenings or weekends, we want to offer that outside of our core offering, but if someone’s PCP identifies a need for 5 days a week during the day, then we can offer that too.
How do we get funding for that? I can’t see how it’s going to work in the real world for my relative.
Anne: If there was something your relative wanted to do on an evening or at the weekend it could be tailored into their support plan.
If all of your staff are out in the community during the day, I’m worried the day service won’t be available.
Anne: We’ve just completed a flexible working consultation with our staff and while they work predominantly Monday-Fri 9am-5pm, we have been working in the background to put timetables into place for those people who want to do activities outside of our core hours which links into our staffing rotas. So if an employee was allocated work an evening or weekend, we have the resources to support activities in a more flexible way.
The support you provided in lockdown last time saved our sanity. Thank you so much. What clearly shows is how much your people love their job, they are excellent at it.
Lisa: Thank you for those comments, they have been fed back to our staff.