Joining forces for a better future

 

LD Voices infographic

We are working in partnership with our colleagues in the social care sector to highlight a number of very important issues that threatens the future of care and support services in the UK.

LD Voices is a coalition of providers of learning disability services. We have joined forces because we are concerned about the future for people with a learning disability and worried that continued spending cuts will negatively impact on our ability to deliver personalised, high quality care.

Funding shortage infographic LD Voices

As budgets are being squeezed, there is a real risk that the most vulnerable people in our society will be let down. Lifeways and all the other members of LD Voices have only one aim; to secure a better future for people who require support to live their lives. Our great fear is that unless there is a change of direction from the government our ability to do this will be badly damaged.

Lifeways vision is to provide bespoke, high quality support that empowers people to have choice and control. Since 1995 we have been working with individuals, families and our local authority partners to deliver support that offers the right amount of support, tailored to each person’s needs and wants. Most importantly we believe that people should be living in and enjoying their local community, being supported to play an active and worthwhile role as equal citizens.

A word from our CEO, Paul Marriner:

We’re dedicated to improving the lives of the people that we support, through the support that we provide daily and by ensuring we have the right infrastructure for the future. This also includes the economic and political environments that Lifeways operate within. It’s our belief that by joining forces with our colleagues in the sector and with the forming of LD Voices, we can make our voice heard and secure a better future for the most vulnerable individuals in society.

Read the LD Voices Care Crisis Manifesto: www.learningdisabilityvoices.co.uk

What does the new National Living Wage mean for Lifeways?

As many of you will be aware the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the implementation of a National Living Wage taking effect on April 1st.

As a result, a legal minimum pay rate of £7.20 per hour must now be paid to everyone aged 25 or over in employment in the UK. For people aged under 25, the National Minimum Wage legislation still applies; the current National Minimum Wage rate is £6.70 per hour and will increase to £6.95 per hour with effect from October 1st.

We recognise that our staff teams play a crucial role in making a difference to the lives of the people we support. Without their ongoing dedication and commitment we would not be able to continue to deliver amazing outcomes for the each individual.

John Birdsall

Although the financial conditions in which Lifeways operates are increasingly challenging, due in particular to the affordability constraints placed upon our Local Authority and Clinical Commissioning Group customers, we are committed to offering and maintaining the most attractive pay arrangements we can for all Lifeways employees.

With this objective in mind, with effect from April 1st, a minimum basic hourly pay rate of £7.25 per hour is in place for all Lifeways Group employees aged 25 and over. In addition, we have also worked hard to secure a better deal for our employees aged under 25. This results is a pay increase to £7.00 per hour as a minimum basic hourly rate. Our ambition, through the establishment of Group wide minimum pay rates that are above the new legal requirements, is to position Lifeways competitively in all locations in which we operate.

In this way, we are striving continuously to reinforce engagement with our existing staff, as well as strengthen and sustain our appeal to future recruits, with the ultimate objective of delivering the best possible care we can, to the people that depend upon us.

The road to recovery

Full length rear view of male hikers walking together in field

Being diagnosed with a mental health problem can be distressing and can impact all areas of a person’s life. It is important to recognise that every person is different and recovery can mean different things to different people. For many people, recovery from poor mental health is about being in control of their lives. The road to recovery is a personal one and should incorporate many different goals and objectives.

Richard Cunningham, Director of Supported Independent Living, which is part of The Lifeways Group says: “The objectives of a recovery-oriented mental health service is to make sure people are able to live successfully in their community. This is through managing their own mental health needs and having less reliance on paid support.”

Recovery can be a journey of personal growth and self-discovery, it is important that service providers such as The Lifeways Group recognise the importance of a positive self-identity to recovery. Recovery should encourage people to move forward, set new goals and recognise their dreams, wishes and aspirations.

Louise, who lives in a Lifeways supported apartment tells us: “I’ve lived in my own apartment for four years; I have learnt coping strategies to help me with my impulsive behaviour and behavioural problems. My support team have helped me gain experience and confidence by getting me involved in different activities, including helping Wirral Social Services run focus groups and sitting on interview panels. My main goal is to live independently, but until then I will continue to be supported and live a better life.”

Richard continues: “It is our belief that services should be ‘Places of Change’ not stagnation, where the focus from the first day of entry into a service is on the eventual exit from that service.”

 

 

 

Rural Success

Service Users Aled Williams, Michael Thomas and Andrew Ward have been braving the elements in support of the voluntary woodland project ‘Three Crosses’ in Swansea.

The project, which is managed by charity Crwys and District Sports Association (CDSA) relies on the support of volunteers such as Aled, Michael and Andrew to maintain this area of natural beauty by creating accessible woodland space that can be enjoyed by everyone in the community. Receiving community support from Support Options’ day services, the trio of handymen have been involved in a variety of tasks since joining the project including cutting back trees, fence building, hedge laying and drainage work. Heading up the project CDSA Committee Member Mary Rees, whose son is also supported by Support Options says;

‘We couldn’t have achieved all this without the hard work and dedication of Aled, Michael and Andrew. They’ve turned up in all weathers to help out and I’m so appreciative of everything they’ve done.”

As part of the scheme Aled, Andrew and Michael have also been tasked with creating an accessible pathway to enable wheelchair users to access the park. “My son is a wheelchair user and it means so much to me that people with mobility needs, like my son, are now able to enjoy the woodland area at Three Crosses.” Explains Mary, Support Options Day Opportunities Service Manager, Andrew Edwards, adds “Since they began volunteering at the project new opportunities have opened up to them and they’re now involved in a number of conservation projects in the area. They’ve also received training from the council around fence building, strimming and using a brush cutter – which they’ve been able to put to good use at Three Crosses and are developing their skills everyday.”

Mary agrees: “I think the Three Crosses project is testament to what can be done through hard work and I hope that others will take inspiration from what has been achieved here.”

To find out more about the project, visit www.threecrosses.org.uk and follow the link to CDSA.

Stop Hate Crime

As part of our ongoing commitment to ensure that the views and ideas of the people we support across The Lifeways Group are heard and responded to, service users and staff joined forces at a recent quality focus Group meeting in Birmingham to exchange thoughts and opinions about a number of topics such as Hate Crime and Service User Involvement in Recruitment.

Sally Raynor, Quality Manager who facilitated the day said; the day was a roaring success with some lively discussion around recruitment and Hate Crime. We had a visit from a local Police Community Support Officer who was able to facilitate discussion and answer any questions with regard to hate crime, and we also gained some great ideas for our new recruitment toolkit, which we’re designing to facilitate the involvement of service users in recruitment.”

Michael Quality Focus Group Member, explains about Hate Crime: “Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t understand autism or other forms of learning disability which can lead to the public calling the Police for the wrong reasons. It’s important to learn about hate crime as people with disabilities may have been too afraid or they may have been the victim of a hate crime. Some people with a disability also find it hard to stand up for themselves therefore they need to be able to talk to a responsible adult.”

Hearing loss can affect people from all walks of life

In both cases the contributing factor that leads to reduced hearing is linked to the inner ear tiny hair cells that either die or diminish in quality. The inner ear contains up to 20000 microscopic hair-like cells that are tasked with capturing waves in the air across a wide spectrum of frequencies. Once these waves are captured the information is passed to the brain via the hearing nerve, where the information is made into tangible language that we simply categorise as ‘sound’.

In the case of age related hearing loss, the demise of the inner ear hair cells is natural and is likely to affect individuals from as early as their 40s, though more common in the over 60s. It is simply one of the challenges that growing older brings with it and individuals cannot hold back this natural process. In the case of noise induced hearing loss, the picture is completely different. The cause is directly linked to work and lifestyle choices that individuals actively take, often while well aware of the risks.  It is widely believed that sounds exceeding 85dB can damage the inner ear hair cells and because these cannot regrow, the damage is permanent. For example, working a chain saw without hearing protection can expose the ear to 120db leading to possible inner ear hair damage (contributing factors: distance from the noise source and duration of exposure). While on the other hand, enjoying bird song will only expose the ear to 44dB well below the human pain threshold (70dB) and when damage may  happen (85dB).

Treatment options for hearing loss to date revolve around managing the condition rather than curing it. In humans (as opposed to other species), the inner ear hair cells cannot regenerate so any treatment option aims to help manage the condition. However, it is worth noting that researchers are actively working on ways using stem cell technology to regenerate hair cells. Such treatment is many years away, though promising for the completely deaf. For now, the most widely effective treatment options rely on amplified devices to send sounds to the hair nerve. Common devices include digital hearing aids, hearing impaired telephones, personal alerting devices and recreational headphones for TV watching and music listening. Such aids are effective in the case of mild (defined as a loss of 20-39dB) to moderate (defined as a loss of 40-69dB) hearing loss. Some devices are even able to help in the case of severe hearing loss (defined as a loss of 70dB and beyond) but in the case of profound hearing loss individuals will have to use lip-reading and even sign language.

If you suspect that your hearing is impaired, you should consult with your doctor for an initial check or visit your local hearing centre for a hearing test. The test is pain free and can help determine long-term hearing loss causes from age related and noise induced reasons as well as less common reasons ranging from mild inner ear infection to prescribed medication.

Article by Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology.

Joan works for hearing company Hearing Direct brand of deaf and hard of hearing ALDs (assistive listening devices) and their accessories from batteries to alarms.