Caring for young people in the coronavirus age — it’s so challenging

Claire Politzer talks about her experience as home manager at Norwood’s Buckets and Spades, an overnight short break service for those with learning disabilities and autism


Buckets and Spades is a safe and inspiring place for children to stay when their parents need some time out from caring for them.

In a normal week, there would be a mad dash to get everyone up and dressed and ready for school. But these are not normal times.

Even though the pressure on the families we support is increasing due to the current situation, many of the young people are shielding due to health concerns. So the reality at the moment is we are getting fewer short-term referrals and are more focused on providing longer-term support.

The difficulties in getting young people with learning disabilities and autism to observe social distancing and hygiene are legion.

They are children and they want comfort via touch. And they don’t all have the capacity to understand that they can’t touch staff.

We are taking extra measures on cleanliness with an infection control cleaning schedule — cleaning all touch surfaces including door handles, light switches and specialist equipment (for example, hoists and bed remotes).

Infection is something staff are all concerned about. Not just whether we take something home but whether we could bring it in and give it to the children we support. Staff change clothes when they arrive at work and when they leave, wear PPE and wear masks if they have to use public transport.

For our children, having to stay inside is really difficult and has a big effect on their mood and behaviour.

Like anyone else, they can easily get bored of seeing the same four walls. To counter this, we are working hard to engage them in activities they have previously enjoyed but there has certainly been an element of frustration behind some of the behaviour they display. This can range from sadness and crying to lashing out.

It’s frustrating, because we were recently donated a minibus that has room for four wheelchairs.Thanks to our volunteer drivers, we could spend our weekends taking larger groups out on a variety of fun activities —bowling, cinema, zoo, museums. But obviously none of that has been possible during lockdown.

For me personally, the main difference right now is that the house is a lot quieter than usual. We are, of course, still trying to improve independence and encourage having a good time while keeping everyone safe. The core of what we do hasn’t changed. Things just look and sound a little different.

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