As part of Learning Disability Week, we caught up with Laura Ansari, scheme manager at White Lion Road, to find out what impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on her team and the service users.

White Lion Road is a learning disability service that provides supported housing for six people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour.

Has coronavirus affected the support provided at White Lion Road and what impact has it had on your team?

The level of service we provide at White Lion Road has remained the same. We pride ourselves on delivering excellent person-centred care and we have ensured that service users continue to receive the same level of support they were used to before the pandemic first loomed. However, like other schemes, the pandemic has forced us to be more creative with our activities for service users. We have had to think outside the box for fun activities to keep service users entertained. For example, bird watching, 3D puzzles, social distancing picnic by the canal and evening drinks in the garden. The new activities are thoroughly enjoyed by both staff and service users.

The outbreak has added a level of vulnerability to everyone, including the strongest of team members. However, we support each other, and I am always there with a listening ear for anyone who wants to talk. This situation has made us bond as a team and service.

What has been the most challenging aspect?

The most challenging aspect has been the emotional side of the pandemic. Letting both my staff and service users know that it is ok to be sad and confused during this worrying and uncertain time. Reassuring them that we are all going to be fine and will overcome this. I also encourage them to share how they are feeling. As a result, I have regular meetings (on and off the record) with each member of staff, which provides them with the opportunity to truly express how they are feeling. 

Could you tell me any examples of staff going above and beyond?

My staff have been brilliant during this turbulent time and I am so proud of them! They have taken on roles they would not ordinarily do and have demonstrated determination, loyalty, and a sense of responsibility. They have been mentors to new staff and have taken on health and safety matters and infection and control issues. We work together as a team which is important.

What have you learnt about your team from this experience?

Staff have displayed a range of emotions during this period, but the one thing they have not shown is defeat! We do this job because we care and want to make a difference to people’s lives. I have always known how committed and dedicated my staff are to their work and the people we care for. The pandemic has reinforced this view, as they have performed heroically. In a time that is very distressing, they have continued to provide immeasurable service and are keeping spirits high, despite how they may be feeling. They are a remarkable bunch!

How have service users been during the pandemic?

They have been great! It has been a wonderful opportunity to explore other things they may enjoy. I truly was bracing myself for one wild ride, but there have been so many positives to come out of this. We have had one service user who has reignited his love for reading and now wants a library at the scheme, which we are working towards. We have seen other service users develop new passions and get involved in things they would not usually do i.e cooking. Everything we do revolves around their wants and desires, and they are enjoying the attention. Their creative side has emerged, and it has been lovely to see. 

What activities have you introduced to the scheme?

We have put our green fingers to work, as we are now growing fresh produce, which we hope will encourage service users to eat more vegetables and fruits as they are seeing it grow in their home. Moreover, we hope it will promote healthy living. We have also taken the opportunity to redesign our garden and will be hosting an opening event soon.

As well as growing fresh produce, we have had music sessions, coffee mornings to encourage socialising, chalk drawing outside which has proven popular, and other pursuits such as photography, exercising, hiking, cooking, and baking. Additionally, we have increased our arts and crafts activities and have made cards and presents for service users loved ones.

We have had nothing but positivity at White Lion Road and we have used this time to move the scheme forward. We have been making plans for all the adventures we would like to go on once lockdown has been lifted.