Jerry Ratcliff, Chief Operating Officer of Surrey Choices thanked everyone for attending. Jerry began by giving an overview of Surrey Choices’ current position and future plans, and his presentation is available alongside these notes. Jerry apologised for the lack of clear communication from Surrey Choices recently and said that action has been taken to improve this. Click here to view the presentation given by Jerry Ratcliff.
Please click on the meeting below to read the Questions and Answers:
West Area: 31 July and 4 August 2020
In your letter you refer to four hubs. What are the three other hubs than Lockwood?
Jerry Ratcliff: They are Priory Gate in Reigate, Fernleigh in Walton on Thames and The Larches in Epsom. From September we will start to open a small number of buildings in the West area and hope to be able to tell you soon which ones they will be, although they will be the larger buildings so that we can support people safely, although still only in very small numbers.
Will Woking Resource Centre be used in the future?
Jerry Ratcliff: This is still subject to review. Rather than go into a building every day of the week, we want to think about supporting people in different sessions in the community, working together to identify what that would look like for people. Lots of the people who use our services spend a lot of time travelling to hubs, but they have less opportunities to try different things and we want to give people those opportunities. This is not about reducing the quality of support they receive; it’s about supporting people to become citizens in their community.
Some people can travel short distances independently, on a mobility scooter for instance. We would look at what individuals can do and what they want to do, encouraging and supporting them to join in community sessions, at libraries, leisure centres, for example, building their confidence to travel, with support where required.
There have been no decisions to close any of our services at this point. We want to make sure that we build up an alternative offer before taking that step. For example, we have been in meetings with Library Services, who have told us they are planning to refurbish the library in Woking, including plans to make it accessible, with accessible toilets, changing spaces and other private spaces for people to use. Discussions have also included having a cafe in the library, and we can train people through Surrey Choices’ vocational training to support people to work there, developing their skills in a real work environment rather than in a day centre. We want to put people into the heart of their community so we’re keen to see how those plans develop.
I want to say thank you to the Woking Resource Centre, the people there are fantastic and have done brilliantly with my relative, who loves the stability of it, and I want it to continue. If you can get my relative into the community a bit more that would be great, but they would flourish if they knew the WRC was around the corner.
Jerry Ratcliff: We have no plans to close any services immediately and we will only make these changes as people are ready, plus we have made a commitment that any change we make will be an improvement to what we currently offer. This is not about saving money, it’s about efficiency
and improving the support we provide.
Mette Le Jakobsen, Managing Director: I’m keen to keep having these conversations with everyone so that so we can build on those relationships and learn from your experience so that we can know what’s working and what is not. We’ll be taking steps as big or small as each person can cope with, which may be tiny changes that mean people have more opportunities, or for others it might be giant leaps to help them achieve long term goals. We want people to do the things they want to do themselves rather than all doing the same thing in the same place at the same time.
Is Woking Resource Centre likely to close? Change is difficult for my relative, we’ve already gone through lots of changes of location and it’s difficult to support through that. Jerry Ratcliff: There are no immediate plans to change the service. We have buildings in other parts of the county where the priority to find a different solution is greater. When we are looking at changes around buildings we will be engaging with families and carers early in that process, and I give you my commitment that any changes we make will only be where there is a clear improvement from what we have now, whether that’s the location or how it is configured. It might not be to a bigger building, but it would be to one that gives us more efficient utilisation of the space and facilities.
Would it be possible to have small groups within the Woking Resource building? Pubs, Clubs, gyms etc. are open so it’s difficult to understand why the centres for the disabled/vulnerable are still closed to clients.
Jerry Ratcliff: We don’t have a date to reopen Woking Resource Centre as yet. As the people we support are the most vulnerable, their safety and the safety of our staff is paramount. We will be reviewing our building use in September, and in the meantime, we will continue to offer small bubbles meeting in the community (and support into people’s homes where required). Due to the underlying health needs of many people with learning disabilities, we are committed to ensure that everyone remains safe.
There is an Adult Education centre in Guildford who run a lot of support learning courses, it’s really good, the café is used by everyone who goes to the centre, but Woking doesn’t have an equivalent.
Jerry Ratcliff: One of the opportunities that lockdown has given us is the opportunity to think about how we do things. I have met with Adult Education and discussed accessing a whole range of supported adult education. We are trying to describe a future where the people we support can access the same opportunities as everyone else with similar interests, to give them a better quality of life, a life the same as the rest of us.
Your presentation is good for those who are highly functioning, who can access services, use public transport and the like, do you think your focus is on the highly functioning and not allowing for those with autistic traits, or higher needs who have historically been provided for through the day centres?
Jerry Ratcliff: Our focus is on everyone we support. We want to change the way we work and make sure facilities are available for everyone to be part of their community, which includes supporting people with complex needs. It’s true that not everything in the community will be right for people with more complex needs and our challenge will be in working to their strengths to see what works best for them as an individual. We want to make a shift from the majority of our support being buildings-based, but we will still have that specialist support and specialist facilities where it is needed.
Mette Le Jakobsen: It’s about making our support available to the individual. In the past we’ve tried to find a service that fits everyone, but we have lots of people with a variety of needs and that doesn’t provide much scope for individualisation or supporting different interests. We want to be more creative with what we are doing, supporting people more personally, taking into account those who have complex or profound disabilities, and our property strategy sets out how we will make sure we have the facilities we need for those with more complex needs.
Mark Davidson, Service Co-Ordinator, The Harbour: Before lockdown we were already working towards a lot of the community groups, and as it eases, we’re going to be increasing that work.
How would this affect people who are less able, they are not all the same. My relative wants to make friends and socialise, we don’t want to separate everyone just because they have different needs and interests.
Janine Gray, Area Operations Manager, West: Each person’s needs will be considered, and activities agreed, as the different levels of support and types of activities will suit different people. It is our intention to ensure that everyone we support has the opportunity to continue to maintain their friendships as well as to provide opportunities to socialise with other people and make new friends.
You have tried going into the community before and it hasn’t worked. I’m concerned that if my relative works in a community café, they may become a target for hate crime.
Mette Le Jakobsen: Hate crime does happen but is important to realise that most abuse is committed by someone that the person knows well. As people become more involved with the community, perceptions change, and it is more likely that people with disabilities are accepted and valued when they have a valuable role to play in society. We want to break down barriers.
Talking about integrating into the community, is there a model out there already that works better than being in isolated buildings?
Mette Le Jakobsen: Yes, there is. Some areas have been doing this for many years. If you were part of the Festival of Ideas or Listening Events last year, you’ll know that we are working on this in conjunction with the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi), and their research shows there are lots of models out there together with evidence of families who initially were anxious about these changes, but a couple of years down the line are saying it’s great, their relatives have a better life, have become more independent and contribute more to their community. We appreciate the journey to get there can be worrying for some, but remember this is not about providing less support, it’s important we support everyone on the way forward.
You say everyone gets a choice about being in the community or what they want to do. What if they feel safer in a centre? How would it work if there is no-one to support them in the community?
Kim Neville, Service Co-ordinator, Cranstock: If your relative doesn’t want to go, they will still receive support from us. If someone wants to see their friends, we will find different ways to bring people together.
Will my relative have a choice to stay where they are now or is there an expectation that they go into the community? This has been tried before and it failed.
Jerry Ratcliff: We have described a journey for people. There is no expectation on anyone to do anything they would feel uncomfortable with, but over time, what Surrey Choices is able to offer will gradually change.
Jill Budd: One of the reasons it failed was the buildings we went into were in the community, but still segregated. We are not looking at segregated buildings, we will be using the same spaces as everyone else.
The reason that going into the community stopped before was lack of financial support. Where is the money coming from to support this? We’re hoping other people are going to support us. We’re all on our knees.
Mette Le Jakobsen: The amount of money we have is not reducing. The council requires us to provide a service and have committed to our funding (our block contract) for this year and next. In the past new community groups were added but cost of the old ones were not removed, and we couldn’t continue to afford doing both. That’s why it’s important that we invest in the future by releasing resources from what we are doing now.
Jerry Ratcliff: When Surrey Choices did this before, the focus was on large institutionalised day centres and in some places the building locations were so isolated it didn’t help people be part of their community, in fact it kept them out of it. If our buildings were in the right places, a number of the people we support could travel independently rather than spend hours on minibuses, and that could pay for another 8 or 9 staff. We spend so much money on rent and minibuses and we would rather spend it on more staff to do more things with more people.
My relative likes to go to the gym and was going there alone before lockdown. You were talking about doing things in small groups, but if they are too small it’s hard to offer the right level of activities.
Jerry Ratcliff: When you both feel it’s safe to go back to the gym, we can support with integrating back in and re-learning how to use the equipment safely. This is actually what we’re talking about going forward – helping someone to access the community on their own, being independent, and then we can support in other areas of their life too.
Janine Gray: I know your relative has support for an hour a week, but we can extend it.
There aren’t the funds available for any of this. In Cranleigh we used to use the cricket pavilion and the group could access swimming and the library for instance, but back at The Harbour there were fewer people without the stimulation for them. You need funds for community groups and to look after those who can’t access the community. There wasn’t enough money for it then and there’s no extra money now.
Jerry Ratcliff: We’re not spending our money cleverly enough. We want to deliver better quality support, not spending money on transporting people for hours at a time or heating large buildings we don’t fully use. Other organisations are really keen to open up their services to us, and we want to work in partnership with them.
Mette Le Jakobsen: We will focus our conversation around the people we support but we also want to recognise the requirements of family carers because one of the functions we provide is a break for those family members who have caring responsibilities. Surrey Choices cannot reduce anybody’s support, only the Council can decide that as part of the annual review. There is no pressure on us to reduce the amount support people receive, but the Council does require us to provide support in a different way while recognising carers have needs too.
It seems that you are encouraging younger people to use the services you provide to broaden the criteria that people can join Surrey Choices. I suspect you want to encourage other groups to come through with lesser disabilities. The things you are offering have no correlation with what high needs people need.
Jerry Ratcliff: There are no changes to our eligibility criteria. Our reason for existing is to support people with Learning Disabilities and Autism, we are not funded to support people with other conditions. Our commitment going forward is that we develop and evolve our services to help the people we support to become more independent, but we also need to make sure that support remains appropriate.
Mette Le Jakobsen: The eligibility criteria is as it always was. Any new services for young people are funded by new money, not from our existing pot, and so that doesn’t dilute the funding for day services. For Surrey Choices to be able to be a strong organisation going forward and be commercially viable, that new income is important to us and it provides new opportunities across the board.
Are you looking to reduce numbers at The Harbour to encourage others to go out in the community and are you bringing people from other centres into The Harbour?
Jerry Ratcliff: No.
Do you have designs to release resources from The Harbour?
Jerry Ratcliff: No.
It’s great to hear you’re increasing the number of buildings you’ll be using from September. We worry that along with the need to get back to normality, the Changing Days programme is looking at a broader number of issues around the buildings we use. It would be good to know which buildings you are intending not to go back to so we can prepare our relative for the change.
Jerry Ratcliff: That’s a good question, but I’m afraid we can’t answer it. For example, Lockwood’s facilities are great but its location is not, out on an industrial estate, difficult to get to by public transport. In time we don’t want to be there, but we want to develop the alternatives first. Places like the Ian Goodchild Centre at the heart of the community in Camberley are ideal.
Lydia Simpson, Service Co-ordinator, Camberley: It is a great location, and in line with Changing Days there are plans for us to develop the service in connection with the library, High Cross Church and the Heritage Centre which are all on our doorstep, and so many other services we can link with which we haven’t utilised up to now.
Jerry Ratcliff: We have no plans to change what we do at IGC but we will change how we use the building so that we support people into the community. We want to make sure people don’t spend five days a week in the building, we want them to go out and be part of what is going on in their community.
My relative has six hours support a day, for five days a week. Is Changing Days going to change that?
Jerry Ratcliff: If that’s what your relative wants, then yes! As you know, we spend an amount of money on each person we support. Before lockdown we worked out what it costs to support each person in a service.
Over the coming months and years we are going to ask individuals and their families how they want to spend that amount on their relative’s support. It might be 1:1 sessions or support to go into the community, we would agree with you what best suits someone’s needs.
Will Changing Days affect Lockwood as a centre?
I have heard that there is a possibility that Lockwood will be closing down in the future. Is this correct and at what date is this proposed?
Janine Gray: We will not move out of Lockwood until a more suitable venue is found. We do plan on offering more community-inclusive activities outside of Lockwood.
Is the intention for Lockwood to stay open long term?
Jerry Ratcliff: Not long term. I can’t give a timescale though because we have to first find the right resource so that we can support people in a better way. We won’t move until we find another space that is part of the community and has those specialist facilities. In the long term, however, we don’t consider Lockwood to meet our ambitions for inclusive support.
Are there plans for a local centre to replace Lockwood? There is a limit as to how much time my relative could be expected to spend in the community. I would be happy for them to spend a shorter time or fewer days outside their home during the pandemic. I can drop them off and collect them from a local location.
Janine Gray: It will depend on what your relative wants; we will be offering more choice in the community and hope that all customers will want to access the community offerings more.
What is the long term plan for getting customers back to Lockwood?
Janine Gray: We are looking to increase our support for all around September, but in terms of access to hubs, it will still only be for a small number of customers in social bubbles. Instead we will also offer more community support.
Has the coronavirus pandemic brought this date forward as there appear to be no plans to open Lockwood in September or October? I understand that special schools like Pond Meadow which caters for children’s disabilities are opening in September.
Janine Gray: The pandemic has made us look at our future plans as part of Changing Days, and how we are going to move forward with more community support. Lockwood is currently open for a few people who have been identified as most at risk. Our recovery plan is in line with Government guidance around community buildings, which Lockwood is classified as, so we are unable to fully open the site.
My relative has no idea what’s happening with Lockwood. They attended four days a week and all they talk about is going back to Lockwood. How will they cope if we’re not going back there?
Jerry Ratcliff: We are committed to having a better alternative than Lockwood in place before we change anything in the long term. Lockwood is a good example of how we need to change how we spend our money. It costs us a huge amount in rent, service charge, heating and transportation and if we can make more effective use of inclusive community venues and not rely on our own segregated buildings, then we can use that money to recruit more staff to support people into the community.
Will I have to find another day centre for my relative?
Janine Gray: No, however we will be focusing our attention on support closer to home.
My relative goes to the day centre three days a week. In effect you are cost cutting by reducing expensive day centres.
Jerry Ratcliff: We’re not going to be saving any money from this. We are making changes to free up resources that are not being used efficiently.
I worry that you want to push everyone to ‘green’ as shown on your graphic.
Jerry Ratcliff: The traffic lights don’t denote that red is bad and green is good, it shows how people could be supported to achieve. For some, spending time in an ‘amber’ situation would be a major achievement.
Jill Budd: The ‘green’ is the type of situation rather than the needs of the individual, reflecting more integration into the community instead of sessions being segregated.
Lydia Simpson: In Camberley there are loads of public amenities we haven’t used, like badminton and tennis, there’s a bowling green that we haven’t been to, plus the new leisure centre which opens next spring. When the town opens up more, we will support our customers to try new things.
The weekly Zoom sessions are helpful but are no substitute for actual social contact. It was great when the few hours arrangements to meet in Woking Park was put in place but as that relied on good weather the second time it was scheduled it had to be cancelled due to the rain.
Janine Gray: As more venues open in the community we will be expanding our community offering and social bubbles. We are currently looking into booking some sessions at local leisure centres.
My relative was offered a Top Golf session but was unable to go due to the Bustler service not covering that area.
Janine Gray: We are working on guidance for making sure we are COVID secure so that we can use our own vehicles soon, so those with no other means of transport will be able to join the groups.
My worry is that the bus journey already takes an hour. If a service were to move to Epsom or Woking it would mean even longer travelling time.
Jerry Ratcliff: The buildings will be central and will have the right facilities to support people moving forward. The future model of service that we envisage doesn’t necessitate that someone travels to a centre before then going out again to take part in an activity; overall, we would want to reduce the amount of time people travel.
As winter progresses, we won’t be able to do so many things outside. My relative’s mobility is very limited and being within a group means they are stimulated on a daily basis. Ideally, I’d like 2 days or 2 mornings a week to go into a building, my relative will look forward to that.
Lydia Simpson: We are emailing families to gather information about what support they need. Jerry Ratcliff: As we go into winter, more activities will have to take place indoors but two days or two mornings a week is exactly the model of support we are looking at, combined with community based support.
Janine Gray: If you feel you need more support, speak to your Service Co-Ordinator because we have other staff available from other hubs. You may worry your relative doesn’t know that member of staff, but we do an introduction, so they get to know the member of staff supporting them, and they get to know your relative’s likes and dislikes.
There has been no communication at all with my relative’s carers. I have to activate all the Zoom sessions that are happening even though I still have to carry on working at my own job. You are trying to work around the Coronavirus, we carers are providing the service and have been doing for months, we are at our wits’ end. People are going back to services and there has been no transparency. Don’t underestimate or undervalue the carers, all the people need some support.
Jerry Ratcliff: We are mindful that the last four months have been exceptionally difficult on all of us, but particularly so on family carers, we can’t imagine how hard it has been. Please don’t struggle on, contact your service and we will do as much as we can to help you.
My relative doesn’t fit into the categories you describe. They live independently with 9 hours support a week, but as soon as lockdown happened had to move back in with me. Now that lockdown has eased they have gone back to the flat 2-3 days a week but can’t access the Zoom activities unless I go and start them. I am grateful for what is being done but it’s not easy.
Jerry Ratcliff: The support we provide covers those with family carers but also people like your relative. Let’s talk about this separately so we can get them back to their normal life in the flat. We can also organise help from our Digitisers to help with getting online.
Christina Earl: We can arrange for one of our Shared Lives carers to go and stay in someone else’s house for an evening or a weekend. This is a brand new project that has begun very recently and can be referred through Adult Social Services.
We’re not getting information if it comes centrally, we only seem to get it if it comes from the local service.
Mette Le Jakobsen: We are working on creating a central mailing list so that we can contact everyone at the touch of a button.
I’d like to congratulate you for getting the digital inclusion live streaming sessions going. It’s really good, my relative is enjoying the live sessions being streamed from Lockwood. Jerry Ratcliff: Thank you! We’ve have had some technical challenges, but we are working hard on overcoming them. In time we want to open up more sessions to people, and we will be continuing the virtual programme after lockdown.
Will it be possible to follow a regular daily routine in activities as, as you are aware, my relative’s abilities are extremely limited and they need a regular structure to look forward to and keep them occupied?
Janine Gray: Yes, all customers’ days will be person-centred as per their choices.
I’d like to thank Lydia and the team, for making sure everyone’s ok, ringing up, emailing and keeping in touch.
Lydia Simpson: Thank you, I’ll pass that on to the rest of the team.
I’d also like to thank Amanda and her team. My relative would have gone backwards in their supported living were it not for the support in accessing the park, playing games and socialising. It’s going to be a struggle to get back into socialising fully but will make such a difference.
Jerry Ratcliff: Thank you. We must balance the risk of the virus with peoples’ safety and wellbeing. I agree, I’ve joined some virtual sessions and can see how important it is that people see their friends.
I’ve had to give up my job to look after my relative.
Jerry Ratcliff: We’ll discuss that separately as it’s so personal, but this is the reason we’re prioritising people living with family carers. We also have a new project starting soon, supporting people in the evenings and at weekends, to give families a break.
East Area: 7 August 2020
What’s happening with the transport to get my relative to Surrey Choices?
Jerry Ratcliff: At the moment our transport provider is only able to carry a small number of people on a bus at any one time so we’re supporting as many people as we can from home. As we start to slowly increase our use of buildings, we’ll be working with our provider to put transport back in place for those who need it. For your relative who travels to Noke Drive, the team there are putting together a travel training programme as there are lots of people who could potentially use the transport independently. We know some people have lost a bit of confidence around using transport independently and we want to help people get their confidence back so they can use that again.
My relative is the only person going to Priory Gate. When will more people be going into the service, as there’s no-one for them to socialise with apart from the staff. I’d heard bubbles of 4 people could use it.
Anne Shiels, Area Operations Manager, East: The service is open to other customers who have critical support needs, but we are encouraging outreach as much as we can to help eliminate the risks to the people we support. We have to be careful about social distancing. We did arrange for another customer to be in the service at the same time as your relative but unfortunately they are not able to come into the service for a short while.
Christina Giacche from Action on Hearing Loss enquired when customers could return to the Larches as they are missing the service.
Jerry Ratcliff: At the moment buildings are only opening for those in greatest need. We are continuing to provide outreach support for people in their homes or in the community as things open up. Our primary commitment is the safety of the people we support, and our staff and we don’t want to increase the risk of infection by having large numbers of people gathering within buildings.
When can I go back to work at the Red Cross or the Noke Drive Office Project?
Christina Earl, Head of Innovation and Business Development: You will need to speak to your Employment Support Specialist about your work at the Red Cross, to find out what plans they have for opening up. Unfortunately, we have no re-opening date for Noke Drive Office project as yet.
What are the future plans for the Sensory Garden in Noke, Redhill?
Jill Budd: We are currently working on re-siting the sensory garden. We will be engaging with our customers, staff and families around this, once we have identified the options available.
At what stage can we go back to using the centres for 5 days a week?
Jerry Ratcliff: That will depend on individual need but being realistic, for most people this will not be an option. Over the coming weeks we’ll be speaking with families again to identify what support people need and how we can best meet that. Being at a service for 5 days a week will suit some people, but not others.
Amy Hammond, Senior Activity Facilitator, Bletchingley: We are looking to open the Garden Centre in Redhill, which would mean your relative would be based there, it’s within walking distance of home for them and we could walk down to meet them to escort them in.
What are the plans for Longmead?
Jerry Ratcliff: In November, we’ll be moving from Noke Drive to a modular building for 3-4 years while the Colebrook site is redeveloped. The building at Longmead is a significant improvement on the building we’re leaving, it has a sensory room, a large kitchen for people to do cookery sessions in, more rooms and much better facilities overall. Over the coming weeks we’ll be updating parents, carers and families about that and what that means for services based in and around Colebrook.
North Area: 10 and 12 August 2020
My relative is autistic and finds change very hard. When can they go back to Nexus? They have tried doing things in the community but it was a disaster and badly affected their self- esteem. Since my relative has been going to Nexus, their confidence has grown, and they really love going. When I receive any calls from the service (which is lovely, thank you), my relative asks if they are calling to tell us they are open again.
Jerry Ratcliff: For some of the people we support, being the community is not right for them all of the time and we can help your relative individually to find what works best. We haven’t got a date to reopen Nexus, but we will be opening more buildings over the coming months, and Nexus will be part of that.
Dean Foley, Service Co-ordinator, Nexus: We’ve chatted through some different ways to support your relative and we can do some more work around that before Nexus opens, to help prepare them.
Jerry Ratcliff: For some people, the impact of lockdown has caused more suffering than the virus and has had a detrimental effect on them. We’ve got to manage the balance between socialising and keeping your relative safe.
People with autism can’t process that buildings other than their own are open. Going to a different service would cause so much upset and stress.
Jerry Ratcliff: We know a lot of people are desperate to come back to services and their family carers also have other responsibilities on top of caring for their relative. We will continue to prioritise those with family carers and will continue to do so, but if you are aware of anyone who is struggling and needs more support, including yourself, do please let us know and we’ll look at how we can help.
Everything must have been difficult for you all, we don’t know when normality will return. Your online sessions are good for the majority of people, but my relative doesn’t have good sight or hearing, so they get nothing from them, they can’t engage properly so only do one session per week. As a result of lockdown they have deteriorated mentally and physically. My relative has autism and can’t transition from doing activities in a service to doing them at home, they need consistency and routine. They can’t travel independently, how can they be supported?
Karen Fallon, Service Co-ordinator, the Knowle: When our staff speak with parents, carers and customers each week, we want to find out what support they would like. We went to Laleham to see if we can open it for a small group, and when the Health & Safety people have got everything in place, we’ll be prioritising opening for people who live at home with parents and carers.
Jerry Ratcliff: We need to talk about people as individuals, making a difference to the people we support. We can’t imagine how hard it’s been for your family. If there are specific pressures please tell us and we will do everything we can to organise more individualised support for you. We’re constantly trying to balance between keeping people safe alongside allowing them to have some relief from the impact on their mental and physical health as a result of lockdown, which is why we need you to tell us what we can do to help. Going forward we want to return to a new normal as quickly as possible to ensure the wellbeing and safety of the people we support and their families.
Karen Fallon: I’ll phone you so we can all work together to find out what will work best for your relative.
A transition period for going back would work so well, when our relative goes back, they’ll have been away for 6 months. Our relative is communicating with us as a family more but they need some external stimulation, we’ anxious for them to get back to The Knowle, going into the community would not work for them as they don’t walk very well.
Samantha Howlett, Area Operations Manager, North: When we have our next weekly call we’ll chat through if there is anything more we can do to help, maybe one of our staff can come into your house and do an activity with your relative to increase support and help with the transition to getting back to The Knowle.
Jerry Ratcliff: We will be supporting people to meet in small bubbles, both in the community and elsewhere, and if your relative will benefit from that, we can organise it. The people who use our services have been impacted by lockdown more than anyone else.
How much time would we have to prepare our relative to come back to the service?
Jill Budd: We will give as much notice as possible. Keep encouraging your relative to wear their mask and washing/sanitising hands regularly to reinforce those good habits.
Would it help if families signed up to commit to test their relative every 3-4 weeks?
Jerry Ratcliff: It wouldn’t be practical to test everyone so regularly. We make sure our staff wear PPE and follow good hygiene practices. One of the other areas we are working on is transport, the buses we use are small and it’s not easy to maintain social distance on them. One of the ways you could really help support your relative is to bring them in yourself so that we have space on the bus for those who have the greatest need.
Is the building Covid safe?
Dean Foley: We have been sourcing sanitisers and equipment and have assessed how many people can use each room at a time, which unfortunately at this stage is very few. We will work with our Health & Safety Manager to ensure that the arrangements we have put in place are in line with Government guidance for Covid security.
If everyone’s going back all at once that wouldn’t work but all the people in the Yellow Room at The Knowle are in wheelchairs, which would make it easier to socially distance. Staff wear masks and are using hand sanitisers. Some people wouldn’t be able to wear masks but couldn’t they be brought back in stages, over a certain amount of time?
Jerry Ratcliff: Slowly opening up buildings over the last 4 weeks has given us the opportunity to find out what works. The Knowle will be one of those opening up next, but only for those who are in greatest need for support.
I’m involved with Health & Safety, and I know the Knowle building well. The way the building is designed does not lend itself to social distancing, the central corridor right down the middle is not wide enough for two-way socially distanced traffic.
Jerry Ratcliff: You’re right, and one of the ways we can manage it is by having less people in the building at any one time.
Could there be a traffic light system in the corridor at the Knowle?
Jerry Ratcliff: It’s a good idea, but unfortunately for a lot of the people we support it just wouldn’t be practical.
Instead of wearing face masks, can people wear visors as well? Should I be concentrating on just the mask or a combination of visor and mask?
Jerry Ratcliff: Masks and visors are great if you can tolerate them. The best way you can keep safe is good hand hygiene, particularly in shared places, keeping surfaces clean and maintaining social distancing. Our focus is on how to keep people safe by looking at all the measures we can put around them.
We have lost relatives to this virus, the support Nicky has provided has been fantastic.
Jerry Ratcliff: I’m so sorry to hear that. Thank you for your kind comments, I’ll make sure they are passed on.
You are offering services outside, I can’t let my relative out in these temperatures.
Jill Budd: We can visit your relative in your home if that’s acceptable, to give you a break
What about The Knowle – where are we with that? Lots of other places like spas, gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools are open, why is it taking so long to open the day centres? At The Knowle the room is so big you can easily space people out in there.
Jerry Ratcliff: The Knowle is one of the buildings we can open but uptake has been mixed around buildings and we need to link that to demand. What makes our buildings different to leisure centres and spas is that people use them in a different way, people spend much more time in them than in the gym or pool. Not all of the people who access our buildings are able to wear masks or manage social distancing themselves. I’d much rather we did this in a carefully planned way so that we can keep people safe.
Are you going to open up The Knowle?
Jerry Ratcliff: We had four buildings open initially, we have a list of buildings to open up from September, and The Knowle is one of those buildings. But this will depend entirely on demand, we have buildings which won’t be opening because there’s been no wish for people to go in.
Have you got an idea of when services like Nexus or The Knowle may be opening?
Jerry Ratcliff: If the situation around the virus remains unchanged, we will start to reopen both services, probably one next month and one in October, but we will still only be able to support very small numbers of people at any one time. But that is absolutely dependent on what the virus situation is and if we can’t keep people safe, we’ll have to move backwards and close them again. In the meantime, if anyone needs any support in or outside the home, phone the service or give Sam a call.
We’ve gone from having 13 zoom sessions a week to barely one now because something has changed and my relative is finding it difficult to log on and they have lost their confidence around IT. My relative can’t read so I have to go to their home and do it for them. I’m worried because I’m going back to work soon and they won’t be able to access the sessions. I can take them to The Knowle on a Friday but other days I have to work.
Karen Fallon: Your relative has their own iPad, we can look to see if one of our Digitisers can help in terms of saving passwords to the iPad.
Jill Budd: We can book them onto sessions for them if that would help.
Jerry Ratcliff: Something has gone wrong if your relative was accessing so many sessions and now that has reduced to one, so we will fix that.
We want to start getting our relative back into the old routine, things like transport, how’s it going to work? They’ve been away a long time.
Jerry Ratcliff: The challenge around transport is that our buses are small and the people who use them are vulnerable. We have reduced capacity on the buses due to social distancing and this will continue until it’s safe to do otherwise. Part of the reason why we’re supporting people from home is to minimise reliance on transport. Where people do need to use transport, we want to support people to get somewhere by themselves or with support. If that’s not possible we will pick them up from home, but that will mean implementing changes to how it’s done.
What’s happening with Ashford Office Project?
Jerry Ratcliff: Our initial priority has not been around the smaller services. We have been looking at vocational services and the Laleham horticultural project, we’ll pick up the Office Projects separately.
When can I go to my 1:1 on Tuesdays, I like going and I miss my friends. I’m in two drama shows, I want to know when I can go back and rehearse. And I want to go back to Rodney House to be independent.
Jerry Ratcliff: You’ve summed things up really well. I was at a meeting of the advocacy group this morning, it’s called Positive Choices, you should join it! At these meetings people ask loads of questions about our services and it’s good to hear people speaking up and to answer their questions. Friendships are so important, and we want to make sure people can see their friends as soon as we can. But we have to make sure everyone is safe. I’ve asked Nicky to look at different ways we can do Starstruck safely.
My relative learned cooking and knife skills on a course in Egham which led to them getting a job at McDonalds, they’ve been there 12 years.
Jerry Ratcliff: We’re looking at developing a new service on the site of the old fire station in Lower Sunbury, alongside adult education. What you’ve described your relative has done is exactly what we’re aiming to do through our Changing Days initiative.
Do you envisage it being fewer times each day, with a shorter working day?
Jerry Ratcliff: Yes, we’ll do pickups at different times, with people accessing our services in different ways, maybe only attending for half a day at a time.
Samantha Howlett: At Fernleigh there are three customers accessing our services on three days per week, although one person is not attending at the moment. The number of people we are supporting in their homes is rising every week.
Jerry Ratcliff: Surrey Choices has 231 people living at home with family carers and we are currently supporting about 160 people in and from their homes, but this has been for much more limited periods of time than before. From September we want to increase the number of people we support as well as the length of time we support them for. We have secured some money from Surrey County Council to provide some flexible respite for family carers. That means from September we’ll be opening a number of buildings outside of our core hours to provide support in the evenings or at weekends, and we’ll be sending out details of that over the coming weeks.
My relative is severely physically disabled and requires a huge amount of care, including a lot of mental stimulation. I receive a package of care from Social Services, but one of the carers had a holiday and the Surrey Choices carer came in a couple more hours each week to help out, which was lovely for my relative, but I’ve had no communication at all about what’s happening with The Knowle, and no clarification about what support I can ask for or what Surrey Choices can give in terms of hours. I’m worried about carers going into multiple homes and the risk of cross-infection.
Jerry Ratcliff: We’ll give as much support as we can based around your relative’s assessment of need. I don’t know what staff availability is at The Knowle right now, but we are prioritising those who live alone or those who need the most care. Samantha will action this offline with you and your Surrey Choices carer so that we can look at your individual circumstances and clarify what we can do.
With regard to cross-infection, we rota our staff so that the same people visit the same homes to keep everyone as safe as possible.
I’d be willing to do whatever I can, Surrey Choices has been so good with my relative and brought them on so much, I’m so grateful for that. They give so much care, that’s what makes our relatives open up.
Jerry Ratcliff: The last four months have been so difficult for us, we can’t imagine how hard it has been for the people we support and their families. Please be reassured our absolute focus is getting back to more structured support as quickly as we safely can, while in the meantime providing as much support as we can. Thank you, we’ll pass your comments on.
Closing Remarks by Jerry Ratcliff:
We’ll send out the notes of these meetings and include our contact details. If there is any way we can work in a different way with you to help with your caring, please contact us. We are mindful that the last four months have been extremely difficult and want to help in any way we can. Thank you for your comments, it’s really helpful to talk to you all. If you found it useful too,
we would be happy to repeat this in a couple of months’ time.