Learning Disability Week: Support and embracing creativity during difficult times

This Learning Disability Week (14-20 June) Mencap support workers speak exclusively to Enable about how they’ve embraced this year’s theme, art and creativity, throughout the pandemic. 

Each summer in June, Learning Disability Week (LDW) takes place to celebrate the amazing impact of people with a learning disability in society, while shining a light on the issues many people still face.

This year, the theme for LDW is arts and creativity, which can help lead to better community inclusion, visibility and work opportunities for people with a learning disability. 

There are 1.5 million people with a learning disability in the UK and they have been one of the hardest hit groups during the pandemic. Throughout this time, Mencap’s support workers have used art and creativity to help and empower people with a learning disability, going above and beyond to keep people safe and create a sense of normality. 

Here, two Mencap support workers share how creative thinking enhanced their work during the pandemic. 

Jade’s Salon

Jade Shortland is a support worker in Yeovil and has worked for Mencap for six years in the same service.

During the first lockdown, all the ladies at a Mencap service in Yeovil really missed going to the salon once a week. So, support worker, Jade, organised her own salon at the home.

Everyone at the service got involved and crafty. Signs were made and a waiting area with magazines was created. It was a lovely day with lots of smiles and lifted the spirits of everyone involved. 

The idea of the salon came about within a day. The ladies were upset at missing out on going to their usual place because of the lockdown and Jade’s Salon was created that very afternoon. They even had an open and close sign and the ladies could stop by and sign in and say what they wanted done.

Jade says: “The downtime almost pushes your creativity doesn’t it? And helps your imagination, with the things that you can do.

“It was a nice way for them to relax and have independence. When that was taken away from them at the beginning of the pandemic, I decided to make the lockdown as normal as possible for them.

“When I was doing the ladies’ hair, I was talking to them not as a support worker, it wasn’t me, I was a hairdresser. And I was using it as a way of communicating with them and trying to see how they were feeling about what’s happening with COVID-19.

“Everyone was really happy; it was a nice day. We’ve done it a few times since, we didn’t want to overdo it and for it to get boring and take that nice side away from it, but we have done it a few more times, and it’s been as positive as ever.”

Going outdoors

Ahmed Noor is an assistant service manager in London and has worked for Mencap for seven years and joined his now service over a year ago.

Lockdown was difficult for the people Ahmed supports at his Mencap service. Having a routine stopped suddenly and everyone missed going outdoors when the COVID-19 pandemic started. 

Ahmed

Ahmed used his creativity and thought outside the box to give his own Virtual Reality (VR) goggles to one of the people Mencap supports, simulating being out and about in the local community like he would do before the pandemic. The VR goggles would mimic aeroplanes and even going to a disco, which you can interact with. 

Ahmed says: “I just thought to use VR goggles one day. I thought if I can’t take him outside, what can I do instead to bring the outdoors, indoors?

“Using the VR goggles enabled the person I support to embrace the life he had before COVID-19, such as doing activities in the community and going to day centres.

“I wanted to give him some of that independence back.”

“My team have been amazing throughout lockdown. We worked together well to come up with various ideas to make the lockdown bearable and most importantly fun for the people we support.”

Find out more about Learning Disability Week and the power of creativity.