"Lockdown. What Lockdown?" - Guest Blog by Debbie Smith

Debbie Smith joined Green Light in 2011 and has led a number of teams with the company. She is Registered Manager of Fairfield House, a home for three people with autism and learning disabilities on the edge of the seaside town of Portreath, on the North Coast of Cornwall.

There are so many poignant moments to highlight within this blog...where to start?!

This whole year has been hugely successful for Fairfield. We’ve continued to push forward in our journey to create meaningful opportunities without taking our foot off the gas, despite Covid Lockdown attempting to dampen some of our plans.

Firstly, we achieved an ‘Outstanding’ rating in Responsive during our CQC Inspection earlier this year. The whole team was over the moon with this result and it really highlighted all the wonderful opportunities we are providing for the people we support.

Getting the steps in!

We kicked off lockdown by purchasing some chickens. One of the people we support was particularly excited by this and named one of them ‘Paisley’. Everyone took part in collecting the eggs each morning, and were supported to help change their bedding and feed them. We taught the whole process of collecting the eggs, through to being supported to cook them for breakfast. They went down very well indeed!

We purchased a polytunnel and started potting plants whilst our wonderful Jo Parsons took the lead in creating a sensory garden.

We purchased a trampoline which has been very well used since the first day it was built, when one person spent hours and hours on there. - We were slightly concerned that the safety netting might not be high enough!

During the course of the lockdown the team continued to support people to take part in their regular litter picks, which not only provides enjoyment and exercise but benefits our local community and environment. We’ve had a number of members of the public thanking us for our services.

Green Light made a decision early in lockdown to over staff homes and prepare for any eventualities relating to Covid. We were blessed with the arrival of some incredible team members, all with different skills and abilities. They were all welcomed with open arms in true Fairfield style!

Our fabulous Babs Davies came up with the idea of a fine dining experience. Shortly afterwards, we had a ‘posh’ three course dinner one evening served alfresco!

Everyone wore their best attire and enjoyed a lovely home cooked three course meal in the garden. It was definitely an enjoyable and memorable evening!

One person was keen for a holiday so we came up with the idea of having an overnight camp in a tent in the garden with a bbq and toasted marshmallows to give a like for like feel. We sang songs in the tent and had a lightshow outside with music and dancing, before it rained!

Every Friday, one of the people we support goes out for lunch and this is something that he particularly enjoys as part of his routine. The team, once again tried to keep this as authentic as possible, to provide as similar an experience as possible, to the real deal. One week, they chose chicken nuggets and chips, so a pub style chicken nugget tray was bought for the occasion. As we eat healthily at Fairfield, we made homemade cooked chips, to go alongside the nuggets which went down like a dream!

It’s this kind of attention to detail that makes me proud of the team at Fairfield. As I said in my initial interview for Green Light in 2011 ‘you can’t teach someone to care!’.

It was becoming obvious through lockdown that some of the people we support were, understandably, missing their families. We set up facetime to support people to visually see their families, but for some this was quite difficult. We then arranged to meet up with families, whilst adhering to social distancing rules.

We invited one parent to Fairfield where she was able to sit in the garden with her son at a two metre distance, but still be able to have a conversation with him. This meant a lot to both the person and their parents. One parent is unable to drive currently so we agreed to drive them to her home where they were able to spend time together in the family garden. It was lovely to see how excited people were to see one another.

Halfway through lockdown, it became very apparent that urgent haircuts were needed. Fortunately our very own Helen Wiltshite, an experienced hairdresser, sorted out everyone’s barnet, including a few team members too.

During lockdown we were able to support a local charity The Cinnamon Trust who provide a dog walking service to those who find themselves unable to walk their own dogs due to ill health. This meant someone we support, who really enjoys being around animals to gain valuable experience for him, learn about looking after animals, cleaning up after the dog, give them a good walk before safely returning to their owner. The person involved really enjoys the whole experience and now looks forward to his job with The Cinnamon Trust.

Our very own Heike Beelert is a trained massage therapist now providing massage to people in the home. This was an important part of people’s weekly activities prior to lockdown when an external therapist would provide this service.

Debbie Hanson’s foraging for art is yet another excellent example of the skills and talents we have amongst us at Fairfield. This has created valuable meaningful activities for people during lockdown.

Babs Davies has created an obstacle course in the garden and battle ropes, supporting people to undertake interval training. We have also been trying out Yoga in the garden.

It’s been wonderful that we have been able to draw on each other’s interests, skills and creativity during lockdown to benefit the people we are supporting.

Healthy eating is high up on the list of things that the Fairfield team excels in. We’ve supported two people to lose 3.5 stone between them during lockdown, by encouraging healthier options and keeping busy and active. Both people are so much more agile and fit as a result and it's been rewarding for everyone to see the transformation!

Now that we are coming out of lockdown the team have organised Pilates in the garden for someone who really enjoys this activity. Swimming has also recommenced and the team have sourced a swimming pool with time slots so each person can have the pool to themselves.

One of the people we support likes to visit charity shops. A lot of thought went into how we would support him to undertake this activity again and how we would teach social distancing etc. To practice the team bought social distancing signs and we played games within the house to help people understand. We also practiced wearing ‘PPE’, so the person got used to wearing gloves and a facemask. By the time it came to undertake the activity, it was a real success. The time, thought and preparation the team put in made this a safe, smooth and enjoyable experience.

One of the people we support was keen to go bodyboarding in the sea which the team made happen. The photos of this are a pleasure to see; just like a group of friends out having a surf together. This again really captures the true essence of what the Fairfield team is all about! It’s so much more than care and support. It’s about having the right qualities and a willingness to go above and beyond. My colleagues often come in on their days off, just to make sure activities they know are important to the people we support go ahead and the support they need is in place.

Last but not least, we had the much anticipated Fairfield Festival on Sunday 2nd of August.

This was such a magical evening! Team members came, whether they were on duty or not, to help and be part of the experience.

It was overwhelming to see all the thought and effort that went into this amazing festival!

Babs Davies, the organiser went to great efforts to ensure it was a success and thought about every single small detail.

From Jake Burns-Ashley on the BBQ to Debbie Hanson's ‘hook the duck’ game, bunting and banner, to Steve Hawking's acoustic set, and Becky Chew's awesome vocals, it really was a sensational experience. It was the icing on the cake so far this year.

We invited our neighbours along who thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. The hot tub bubbled away and was thoroughly enjoyed even into the following day by some festival weary people who needed to relax after so much dancing and partying!

Finally, I would like to say that this team is truly a special team. They have inspired me to work that bit harder each day, and I always look forward to coming into work. There is a real positive energy about Fairfield and the team. They have a natural ability to bring out the best in the people we support and each other. Their caring, attentive characters really shine through!

I am so very proud of this team. We wouldn’t have achieved all these wonderful goals, if it wasn’t down to the efforts of each and every person on our team!

A massive thank you from the bottom of my heart for continuing to provide outstanding care...you guys absolutely rock!

Stay awesome!

We have gone big during Covid, but next year we plan to go large! Watch this space!