In recent days Government guidance has been changed to permit people with specific health needs to exercise outside more than once a day and to travel to do so where necessary during the current coronavirus crisis. The background to this can be found by following this link. In particular, the guidance has been changed so that:
If you (or a person in your care) have a specific health condition that requires you to leave the home to maintain your health – then you can do so. This could, for example, include where individuals with learning disabilities or autism require specific exercise in an open space two or three times each day – ideally in line with an agreed care plan. This would also allow for support workers who do not live in their household to accompany them.
Self evidently the above needs to be applied to individuals on a case by case basis. However, given my day job of managing support services for people with a learning disability, this is something which requires a little more than abstract thought.
We support a number of individuals who have their own tenancies, and can exercise a fair degree of independence, albeit that they would ordinarily attend day service provision throughout the week. With the closure of these services, the opportunities for these individuals to be active, busy and outdoors has been significantly curtailed. (A good deal of local day service provision revolves around horticulture and contract gardening activities). Not only has activity ceased, but so has the opportunity to meet with peers and friends.
The impact of the lockdown on mental wellbeing is not exclusively the domain of people with a learning disability. However, there is a strong likelihood that, in the absence of structured activity, individuals who only receive limited home based support will seek out engagement with others, both to alleviate boredom and to seek the companionship of others.
This is exacerbated when, within the vicinity of home, they regularly see neighbours who are quite clearly not social distancing. Somewhat confusing, if the advice being given is to maintain social distance whilst there are people across the street that aren’t following that principle.
Where tenants are not supported throughout the whole day, there have been occasions when they have elected to go and talk to the neighbours. Particularly if this is something which has been done for a good few years previously (prior to lockdown). Ordinarily these tenants are able to come and go from home as they wish. With an assured tenancy in a general needs property there are no restrictions in relation to residing there, beyond the fact that the conditions of the tenancy are observed.
The solution is relatively simple…additional support to facilitate more outdoor walks or exercise, safe in the knowledge that this is ‘acceptable’. But let’s just take a minute to consider who is going to do this. Let’s hear it for the support staff, who put in the extra time and effort to try and manage these issues at the coal face. And then ponder on the fact that successive Governments have for far too long treated the social care sector as a second-class auxiliary health service, to be left to the vagaries of market forces and cash-strapped local authorities. It’s good to see the care sector getting its due recognition in these difficult times…but lets ensure that it is more than just this…