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Burton Street Foundation Staying connected & caring for each other

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The Burton Street Foundation is a not-for-profit community-based organisation that provides day services for adults and children with learning difficulties. Operating in the grounds of a refurbished school, the site also supports 14 businesses, has a public cafe and a professional kitchen.

The Burton Street Foundation as a whole has around 2,500 visitors each week; hosting conferences, providing space for events and running community nights. The site is supported by paid and volunteer staff, some of which have learning difficulties themselves.

During these unprecedented times, we at Burton Street have felt a real sense of coming together.

Bonds between staff, volunteers and clients are getting stronger through absence. There is a common feeling among the workforce that we are all in this together, relying on each other and truly understanding that we need our clients just as much as they need us.

We knew that some of our clients would find it very difficult to understand why they couldn't attend Burton Street, so we needed to try and find new and creative ways to get the message across. The video to accompany Jimmy's song was one of the first things staff made. It shows the site and session rooms empty with just a few staff cleaning up. This was important because some clients believed it was only them not allowed to attend, which initially caused some upset.

We have had staff helping out other organisations, as you can see in the pictures, teaming up with Stable Lives out in the community to make sure shopping, health and social needs are met. Two project workers, Katie and Niall, have been visiting an elderly woman who is partially deaf. In the process they discovered her love of Vera Lynne, and after the initial meeting they brought round a speaker, so they could all listen to Vera speak. It meant a lot to the client and the project workers have expressed an interest in keeping this relationship going after the nationwide restrictions have been lifted.

Elsewhere, on-site maintenance continues so that when we can return, the place will feel bright and fresh. Leon has washed every soft thing that Burton Street owns and experienced staff have teamed up with newer members of the organisation to go out into the community and offer support. Being thrown in at the deep end hasn't fazed anyone so far - the team has really pulled together.

Burton Street have set up a Client Connect service, where staff who have been placed in isolation due to vulnerability safeguards have been phoning clients on a daily or weekly basis to offer an ear, let them know they are at the forefront of their minds, and provide social support in any way they can.

Our team members have also combined their experience for certain clients who have bespoke linguistic ability by making collaborative videos, comprising an amalgamation of songs, poems, buzz words and messages of love to let the clients know they are still being thought about.

We have started sending out activity packs, after the feedback we received suggested clients were getting bored as the lull from the routine change settled in. To offer stimulus, packs of colouring books, craft activities and images are being sent out. As we come to terms with the gravity of the situation, it's important to reach out in a variety of ways to ensure the people we support are coping.

We are in the process of organising a shopping service, where care workers and our staff can collaborate to get essential items from the supermarket. Clients and their families will be able to fill out a form online and send it to a dedicated team, posted all across Sheffield to help ensure their cupboards are well stocked.

Everyone has worked and continues to reassure clients regularly. Staff are being very positive, developing online content, like step-by-step baking sessions, videos of staff singing and even 'signing' along in Makaton to favourite songs.

With 250 clients to check in on, the daily or weekly phone calls pick up on any issues that we try to help with and let everyone know that we will all be back together soon. Some clients phone daily to check if we are open again tomorrow. Hopefully one day soon we will be able to answer, 'Yes!'

Our clients, their families and our wonderful staff make Burton Street a very special place and who knows, this situation might make us even stronger and more special. Let's hope so.

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