St Anthony’s Disability Services provide a range of individual, group and accommodation services for children and young adults with disabilities. We support participants with a range of moderate to complex support needs to enjoy various experiences and participate in community life. It brings the staff at St Anthony’s great joy to be part of a young person’s life as they achieve individual goals and milestones.

With COVID this year, it again bought home the significance of support which St Anthony’s Disability Services provide. The year 2021 has not been like any other, and as we celebrated the International Day for People with Disabilities on 3 December, the meaning and importance continued to resonate with us more than ever.

In June this year, we began facing another wave and new strain of COVID; our operational team were quick to maintain engagement with our participants and their families. From previous experience, we knew that focusing on our mission of supporting children and young adults would ensure that we were able to respond to individual and family needs, and we quickly connected from our new “home offices” to focus on our participants and staff members’ well-being during this time of change.

From a perspective of “essential service” needs, we looked at how we could best continue to operate services and support those in greatest need whilst minimising all potential risks. Services were adapted from community settings to in-home care to reduce person to person contact, and we created small teams which we called “bubbles” to reduce exposure when close contacts arose and to assist us with contact tracing.

As the government guidelines changed frequently, our ability to navigate flexible and adaptive services would soon become our strength. Assessing risk became a core focus with a need to protect participants and their support workers alike. As the days rolled into weeks, and then months, the challenges continued, and we saw many acts of kindness and outcomes for which we are grateful and hold close.

Overall, the disruption to everyone’s life, health, and mental well-being this year was immeasurable, and the impacts will be felt for years to come. The added complexity for families with a child or person with a disability added further pressures for many. Through this constantly, and rapidly challenging year, safety remained paramount, and we ensured that we offered transparency in our approach to both staff and support workers.

“The disruption to everyone’s life, health and mental well-being, as a result of the ongoing COVID19 pandemic is immeasurable and as a society we will be revealing, investigating and counting the cost for years to come. The added complexity of COVID when you have a child with a disability, or indeed any person with a disability, makes our full and already completely bonkers life even more chaotic.  We rely heavily on the support and unconditional love that our son receives by the staff (both management and support workers) at SAFC. During this constantly, and rapidly, evolving time SAFC staff have been outstanding in their communication with us and have been as accommodating as possible to ensure that we have continued service.  This has never been at the expense of our safety, or that of our beloved son or SAFC staff. Thank you for your adaptability and understanding. Our decision to use SAFC as a service provider in 2014 is one that we have never regretted”.

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