In health and social care, we are all working in unprecedented times – resources are scarce, but people’s individual requirements are high. As the saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and we have found that by engaging with communities, thinking creatively and sharing ideas and opportunities, we have been able to change people’s lives.
Collaborating with the community
Over the past five years, our day services have grown extensively; we have gone from creating performing arts groups for people with learning disabilities, to those groups being booked to perform at local care homes and community shopping malls, Birmingham Symphony Hall and Town Hall. The groups are also booked to perform at educational events, including university events. The groups engage and perform with local schoolchildren and choirs and the reaction they receive is so positive. We get feedback from parents too, who are moved by their child’s ability to connect with audiences whilst performing.
We also run a gardening club group, whose attendees have learnt new skills and are often in the local community planting, weeding and watering. After initially joining the local allotment association, we became involved with Halesowen in Bloom, helping to plant bulbs and install bird boxes in the local town for the Royal Horticultural contest. Over the last three years, this has developed considerably, and we now tend our own plot in front of one of the local churches. We regularly collaborate with a group of local primary school children, meeting to clear, plant and develop the area. People tell us they love seeing us in the town and we felt honoured to help the town gain a Gold Award in the Royal Horticultural contest this year.
We have also developed small garden areas outside local community services, including the GP surgery, and have provided watering cans for people to use to encourage engagement.
Recently, a local group within the community have taken over the ownership and running of an ex-council building and renamed it Hasbury Community Hub to develop for the local community. Our staff and the people who use our services are now a part of this project and the gardening group have planted trees and will be helping to develop a war memorial garden.
In 2011, we opened a social enterprise community coffee shop in a residential area to enable us to provide work-based opportunities for people with learning disabilities. There are three staff who support and develop the skills of people with learning disabilities at the coffee shop.
By teaming together, our employment project staff have supported our coffee shop staff to develop catering and customer care skills and to gain a realistic approach to work.
Early in 2017, we successfully obtained funding to run a three-year supported employment project to help adults with learning disabilities in the Halesowen area find and sustain employment.
Through networking with local organisations, the employment project promotes and celebrates the benefits of employing a diverse workforce where all skills are valued.
The project soon received a number of referrals and our staff began to work with these individuals to help them identify the type of work they would like to do, complete job applications/CVs, attend interviews and learn to travel independently.
We are very proud to say that we currently support four young people who have been successful in obtaining permanent paid employment, one in an apprenticeship, two in voluntary work experience placements and several others who are just starting out on their journey into employment.
One of the most resilient young people we work with is Sean who, after trying anything we threw his way, was finally rewarded with a much-deserved paid job at Sainsbury’s.
We believe that the secret of our success (aside from the commitment, enthusiasm, hard work and determination of the wonderful young people referred to us) is that we are able to offer a very person-centred service which acknowledges the individuality and value of each job seeker and works closely, openly and flexibly with them, their families and employers. The provision of a job coach to support all parties through the induction period and beyond is vital to ensure that employment is not just obtained but is also sustained.
3rd Sector Care Awards
Winning the 3rd Sector Care Award was a much-appreciated recognition of the success of our job seekers and we hope will help to secure the continuation of our service.
It’s not often you get to be amongst so many inspirational, empathetic, positive and creative-minded individuals in one room, which is exactly what happens at the 3rd Sector Care Awards. The event in December was full of upbeat people from fantastic and forward-thinking organisations who shared how they work and design innovative models of care. To learn that the hard work of all who work for Halas Homes had been recognised by winning the Community Engagement Award was such an incredible boost to us.
Without the enthusiasm and flexibility of such a wonderful staff group who truly want to make a difference to people’s lives, we clearly would not be able to achieve this extent of community engagement and make such an impact on individuals’ lives.
As far as the future is concerned, we hope to be able to continue to support people with learning disabilities into work as it is universally known that without support it is difficult for people with learning disabilities to sustain employment.
As the performing arts groups are increasingly sought after, the gardening club is growing and jobs are deservedly being offered and retained, it is inevitable that engagement will naturally increase. But most powerful of all is that, in turn, this creates greater awareness of what a valuable asset people with a learning disability are in their community. If the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, community engagement must be a positive and powerful force in improving everyone’s lives.
The Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards is run specifically for the voluntary care and support sector. See 2018’s winners and find out more about this year’s event. Sponsorship opportunities are available.
With thanks to our supporters: National Care Forum, Learning Disability England, The Care Provider Alliance, Association of Mental Health Providers and VODG. This award was sponsored by Triodos.