“I was initially quite apprehensive about taking part in the placement. If I am very honest, I saw the term “severe adult learning disabilities” and it was not something I looked forward to,” said John.
John was taken under the wing of Nicola Bonfield, Service Manager at Sea View Manor in Kent, who had carefully organised a clear rota for John, to introduce him to the work of Hft as an organisation and the services that we provide.
Together they talked to staff and residents, to understand what life is like living with a learning disability, and the different ways that staff creatively support people to lead active and independent lives.
For John, this was his first experience of spending time working alongside people with a learning or physical disability.
“The support workers had an unbelievable attitude and energy in terms of their dedication. They held a very balanced, grounded and earnest view of their work with the people they supported, which was highly professional” said John.
In the first couple of days, John spent most of his time shadowing support workers, and quickly adjusted to working at Sea View Manor. As his confidence grew though, John became more involved in supporting people – allowing him to experience first-hand the relationship support workers have with residents:
“The difference between the initial thoughts I had prior to arriving at Hft, and finishing my first day at the service were considerable. I am delighted to say that the experience continued to improve further.”
Over the next few days, John played a more energetic role in helping the people we support out in the community.
Alongside support workers, he participated in several activities – including shopping for groceries, exercise walks and supporting a resident to visit the dentist.
From working with the people we support, John experienced some of the challenges that those with a learning disability face when trying to live independent lives.
“I saw first-hand how, even in this day and age, there can be a strange shyness from some of the public towards those with learning disabilities. I witnessed some almost stare, whilst others avoided and actively distanced themselves.”
This behaviour has prompted John to think carefully about his duty to people with a learning disability, and how he can play his own part in helping individuals get the most out of life.
”I’ve learned to appreciate that every resident has an individual character; they have as much perception and awareness of attitudes towards them as any other person. It’s also underlined the need to respect their needs, and provide support against any prejudices and discriminations directed towards them.”
For both Hft and John, it was a valuable learning experience.
Being able to compare his initial preconceptions about people with learning disabilities to the reality after working at Sea View Manor, he summarised how important the diversity placement was in his own career.
“I have benefitted greatly from getting to understand the needs of adults living with a learning and physical disability. How to understand them as people, how to communicate and how to appreciate their unique needs is something that I am now much better informed on. I sincerely hope that I will keep in touch with everyone at Sea View Manor and my thanks go to the Diversity Team of Kent Police and everyone at Hft for making this happen.”
Nicola Bonfield echoed John’s words; and appreciated the value the placement would bring, not only for the people we support at Hft Kent, but also for everyone with learning disabilities.
“It was fantastic to have John come and spend the week with us at Sea View Manor. We both learnt a lot about each other’s roles, and for him to leave with an invested interest in learning disabilities is wonderful. We hope that this positive relationship with Kent Police will continue, and that John can share his experience with his team – and we welcome future diversity placements such as this” said Nicola.