Behind the scenes at worried day centre

Cookery teaches all kinds of skills: from left ' community support workers Lorraine Palmer and Chris King with assistant psychologist Adam Harris and Jane Whaley. Photo: SG190112-82MD
Cookery teaches all kinds of skills: from left ' community support workers Lorraine Palmer and Chris King with assistant psychologist Adam Harris and Jane Whaley. Photo: SG190112-82MD

THE introduction of specialist services for people with learning disabilities has broken down barriers in terms of them becoming part of society.

We are now familiar with people who appear slightly – sometimes markedly – different to the rest of us, but at one time these people wouldn’t be seen in public at all. They would be shut away behind locked doors, or else isolated in their own homes.

The introduction of specialist adult social care day centres such as the Chappell Centre in Spalding has helped to change that. These day services provide a range of activities to suit the varied disabilities of the people who attend them, helping them to gain the skills and confidence needed for being in the community.

Yet, as reported in these newspapers, the Chappell Centre in Pinchbeck Road is one of 30 adult social care day centres facing the axe in cuts proposed by Lincolnshire County Council.

“People come here not just to access the activities, but to socialise,” said Kay Portass, Supported Living Coordinator and the person responsible for the day-to-day management of the Chappell Centre. “Previously, a lot of them attended the Garth School and as they became adults they have come here and they have built really strong relationships. They are all friends and they worry about each other. If someone isn’t here because they are poorly, they do worry and look out for each other. Not only do we support the people that come to the centre, they support each other.”

Kay said the centre – with between six and eight community support workers – provides a day service Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm for about 40 people with learning disabilities each day. Some live at home with parents and some are in supported living accommodation in the community.

Disabilities range from people with mild to moderate learning disabilities to those with severe and complex needs, and some have physical disabilities as well and may be partially sighted or else in a wheelchair.

The range of activities reflects these varying needs, but the centre users choose what they would like to take part in and all are aimed at enabling them and teaching new skills.

For instance, Kay says: “One client is partially sighted and she still does everything everyone else does but a lot will be hand over hand and, if she is doing something like painting, colours will be explained to her and she will be asked what she would like to paint and the colours she wants to use.”

On the day of our visit one group was out bowling while another was kurling. A small group was out shopping for ingredients they would need to make lunch for everyone. However, there are facilities for table tennis, badminton, skittles, music and dance, relaxation in a sensory room, gardening and handicraft projects in an outdoor skills unit, sewing and knitting, drama, arts and crafts and games.

Kay explained the cookery session in particular taught many skills: deciding as a group what they would like to eat, what needed to be bought and going shopping, as well as food preparation, health and safety and hygiene, many things that probably wouldn’t be taught at home.

A new drama group has given enormous confidence to the day centre visitors, and Kay explains: “They need support in order to do a variety of activities and to try new things.”

Most of all though, activities such as kurling and bowling encourage socialising and friendships, something that would be almost impossible for people living in rural areas where transport isn’t accessible, yet they are things that all of us should be able to take for granted.