This small, local charity has demonstrated creativity, resilience and a whole lot of dedication to caring for the wellbeing of the people they support, despite ever-changing lockdown restrictions.
Based in Sale, Stockdales provides home-from-home residential care for people with learning disabilities, as well as running a wide range of social clubs, classes and activities for children and adults in the community, encouraging people of all abilities to grow, socialise, and live life to the full.
Natalie James, fundraising manager, said: “This last year has been quite difficult for everyone at Stockdales, and I think that’s an understatement really.
“People with learning disabilities experience isolation at the best of times, so this was a whole different ball game for them.”
In the early stages of the pandemic, lockdown restrictions imposed a complete stop to most of Stockdales’ social activities, meaning that adults and children who normally look forward to a busy schedule of fun and games, social clubs and life-skills activities going on weekly at Stockdales were missing out, which Natalie said will have come as quite a blow to them and their families.
Residents living in Stockdales’ care homes were subject to heavy restrictions throughout the pandemic, similar to those in care homes for the elderly, unable to leave the grounds or venture further than their garden.
“Some of our residents do have high healthcare needs, but not everybody does,” Natalie said.
“Many of them are only in their thirties or forties, and are in great health, but it felt like all care homes were sort of lumped together in terms of restrictions placed on them.
“But we’re not an organisation that just sits back and says, ‘oh well, that’s that then,’ we’re always looking for ways to do whatever we can and make the best of it.”
Operations manager Alex Daly explained : “The pandemic restrictions were frustrating for all of us, and whilst we might not have liked it, we at least understood what was happening.
“For some of our service users with higher needs, all they knew was that they weren’t doing the things they love doing but couldn’t really make sense of why, so helping people through that and managing emotions has been difficult.”
During the worst of the pandemic, the staff at Stockdales got creative, coming up with whatever entertainment they could muster within the parameters of restrictions to keep their residents in good spirits, including socially distanced barbeques, arts and crafts, baking, games sessions and pamper nights.
Alex said: “A lot of our service users have been attending our courses for years, and they’ve spent months out of their normal routine, which many of them have really struggled with, so it’s really important for them to be back with us.”
Since August, Stockdales has been able to slowly get back to some semblance of normality, and have been running day sessions and a number of their social activities again, adapted for safety.
“We opened our kids’ club in June, and we’re finally reopening our social club this week, and everyone is just so happy to be back.
“We are running at half numbers so we can accommodate social distancing, using lots of PPE, and we had to adapt a lot of the activities to minimise contact.
“We’ve had to make some hard decisions as to who we can support, and give priority to people with the greatest need.”
Stockdales has already been able to arrange adapted cycling sessions, and even managed to take groups to Jump Space, Stockport for sensory play and trampolining trips, which Alex says are an absolute favourite.
Over the next few months, Alex hopes to get back to running more and more of the vital social activities they usually provide, including day trips to museums, zoos, farms and swimming classes, to name just a few.
“We’re slowly getting there!” Alex said, though she admits concern about the approaching winter season and increasing speculation about problems it might bring.
“It’s a little dark cloud hanging over us, but we’re staying positive and we’ll deal with whatever comes, like we have this year.”
Natalie added: “People with learning disabilities are just normal people, with the same needs and wants that everyone else has, just with different challenges, and we’re here to help them with that.
“This doesn’t stop during a pandemic, we are still a 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year organisation, and we will continue to do the best we can.”
To find out more about Stockdales’ activities and how you can support them: https://www.stockdales.org.uk/
All photos courtesy of Stockdales.