How a centre for children with special needs is coping with the coronavirus crisis
- Credit: Archant
An activity and social centre for children with special needs has hailed the support of fundraisers and parents as it battles to stay open during the pandemic.
Supporting families and trying to maintain respite care for those who are at increased risk from Covid-19 brings extra pressures for staff at Shine in Alpha Road, Gorleston.
The centre provides respite breaks, and after-school clubs, for children aged five to 18 from across Great Yarmouth - as well as an inclusive nursery - accounting for some 100 children across all the services.
Under the pandemic it has had to reduce capacity and close twice because six staff have tested positive for coronavirus at various times.
So far not a single child has been infected thanks to stringent cleaning and social distancing regimes that are carried out to the letter.
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Senior manager Karen Leggett said she was mindful of under-pressure families who needed their services now more than ever but were seeing it reduced or even stopped altogether.
“When I have had to close I feel like I am letting the families down because they are already having a reduced service,” she said.
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“The main challenge has been trying to support families and stay open because I understand that the families need the respite and value it.
“It is the emotional responsibilty of looking after somebody elses child and keeping them safe,” she said.
Working with sometimes severely disabled children was a passion, not just a job, that was demanding at the best of times.
Adding in the extra pressure of the virus had made it even harder with constant cleaning and checking on PPE and social distancing.
The Friday night youth club, which has been cancelled due to staff testing positive, is hoping to reopen this week as well as the Saturday club, both aimed at helping children to be independent and enjoy a fun environment for learning and play.
Meanwhile Mrs Leggett hailed parents for their understanding and said she was proud of her staff.
Normally they took 12 to 14 young people during a session but had trimmed it to six, and then eight during the holidays.
Meanwhile the activity centre’s funds had received two timely donations one for around £1,000 from Chris Blyth who ran the virutal London Marathon in memory of his daughter Beth who loved attending Shine but sadly died in 2016 aged 19.
A further £2,300 came from staff at Palmers/Beales after the store closed.
Mrs Leggett said the two handouts coming within a few days of each other had been a real boost and would go towards an outside sensory garden which was taking shape.
“We have struggled over the pandemic and we have done our best to remain open.
“People like Chris and the staff at Palmers have carried on supporting us in a way that we are incredibly grateful for.”