Safe visits into the community

Disclaimer: This piece was written before the second National lockdown, which began 5 November 2020.

Staff at Highlands Lodge, one of our supported living services in Berkshire, have been helping the people who live there to get back into the community by visiting their local pub and shops. With the new Government restrictions put in place to keep everyone safe from COVID-19, we asked the staff and the people we support at Highlands Lodge how they felt about going out in the community again.*

New rules and restrictions

Visiting shops and pubs is a very different experience now compared to the beginning of the year before the country went into lockdown. New rules mean people who visit these places must always wear masks, except for when sitting down to eat and drink. You must also keep a safe distance from others and a lot of places also have a one-way system for people to walk.*

Having easy to understand rules is essential for keeping the people we support safe. Staff at the service regularly talk about the restrictions to the people who live there, explaining what they can and can’t do. Miranda, one of our coordinators in Berkshire, told us what measures staff have put in place to ensure everybody understands the rules. “We’ve put guideline posters up in each house and staff read these out to the household. On every trip, staff express the importance of wearing masks, not touching things and hand washing. There were challenges at the start, such as forgetting masks, but staff were always there to remind them.”

Adapting to a new way of life

Changing the way you do daily tasks, like going to the shop, can be difficult for everyone, but even more so to those with learning disabilities, who rely on consistency and routines. We asked Miranda how she thinks the people we support have coped with the strict rules. “They coped with it well and have adapted to a new way of life. They are very good at wearing their masks and social distancing without being reminded now, although it can be hard sometimes. The experience definitely hasn’t stopped them from wanting to go out and about again!”

To keep things fun for the people we support, they were supported to go and buy their own masks. Being able to choose their own preference of design, pattern and material has really made them to want to wear their masks all the time.

We asked Grantley, a tenant at Highlands Lodge, if they felt the rules were straight forward enough when they visited the local pub. “The pub looked the same, but felt better as there were less people, so it wasn’t crowded. It was great to get out but felt strange having to wear a mask. The staff at the pub were very good at telling us what to do.”

Miranda said, “Even though they have restrictions, staff try to make the outings as fun and as normal as possible.”

David, one of the people we support, told us about the rules they followed when they visited their local pub and shops, “I know what to do at the shop, and at the pub the staff explained what the rules were. We had to wear our masks at all times, but we could take them off to eat and drink. I’m getting used to wearing the masks. We could only go one way around the shop and can’t get too close to other people. We tried to be as normal as possible, but it was difficult keeping away from other people.”

Although heading out into the community is vastly different to how it was before the pandemic, the staff and people we support are dedicated to keeping it as fun and most importantly, as safe as possible.

*Highlands Lodge’s visits to the pub and shops took place in September of 2020, before the second National lockdown measures were put into place.

Please note: This article is about events that happened during the COVID-19 pandemic and reflects the safety measures based on government advice during that specific time period. Please be assured that at all times, Voyage Care follows the appropriate COVID-19 safety measures to keep our staff and the people we support safe. To find out more about our COVID-19 safety precautions, please visit our COVID-19 resource area. (https://www.voyagecare.com/covid19-resource-area/

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