The coronavirus outbreak has made the Trust’s support work increasingly difficult and put its finances under enormous strain.
The crisis has proved to be an enormous challenge for the wellbeing of people with learning disabilities and other additional needs as many find it difficult to take even the smallest changes to routine, while others suffer from severe anxiety, even when all is right with the world.
The Trust’s dedicated staff care team, at some risk to themselves, are doing what they can to support people emotionally as well as physically. They really are the 4th emergency service.
Despite all this hard work, the crisis is proving to be an enormous financial challenge for the Trust. Its social enterprises Furzey Gardens, Hanger Farm Arts Centre in Totton and Minstead Lodge conference and event venue, all of which were providing training and employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities, have all had to close their doors with no notice. This deprives the Trust of crucial income at the very point it is needed most.
As Government guidance has changed daily, staff have had to move quickly to change their working practices. All office staff have moved to remote working, where possible, with daily business continuity conference meetings senior staff to plan through each day’s public health updates.
Careful planning to change all support rotas means that teams are all split to avoid potential cross infection should anyone develop symptoms. This means the Trust is more able to maintain support even if one team is in self isolation. The first delivery of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has arrived, so that staff can still provide more intimate support if the people we support develop symptoms.
People with learning disabilities are now supported in their house groups to avoid the potential of infection moving between houses. Minstead Trust has had to close its community groups and its regular day opportunity provision, as we try to provide support in alternative ways.
Despite this, the response of the public has been an enormous support in these worrying times. Many people booked in to attend shows at Hanger Farm have already chosen to donate their ticket cost rather than asking for a refund and although the spring fundraising ball has been postponed, the sponsors Day Associates are staying committed, along with people who had booked tables. The Trust is now launching an emergency appeal to help to cover its costs in the coming months.
Gemma and Isabel live in one of Minstead Trust’s supported living properties in Totton. Gemma said: ‘I feel sad that we’re not going out places, I don’t like not being able to go to the cinema, but I do like making cakes and doing yoga at home.’
Like many people with learning disabilities, Isabel is not fully aware of the situation so needs support to ensure she is complying with the guidelines. Isabel said: ‘I am enjoying spending time at home with my friends, doing puzzles and colouring.’
Madeleine Durie, Minstead Trust Chief Executive, said: ‘It is a very worrying time for everyone involved in the work of our charity. Our staff team are still providing brilliant care to individuals, and helping to keep routines as much as possible to reduce individual’s anxiety. But I worry for the health and wellbeing of our staff team, I worry about the impact on the people we support and I worry about where the money will come from to help us stay open. Charities like ours are the fourth emergency service and society needs our help now more than ever.’
The financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Minstead Trust’s work is significant and the charity will need to find ways of urgently replacing that income to continue its work supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society.
If you or your business can help the charity in this hugely difficult situation please visit justgiving.com/campaign/minsteademergency
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