At the time of writing this, I have just received an email from Rodger, my Head of Client Services, now back working two days a week, with nine risk assessments covering different elements of the STH delivery day, setting out how we will manage the risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19 from person to person and via contaminated surfaces.
We will need to work through these for each of our centres, and in some cases for discrete areas within the centre.
This had been feeling like a mammoth task and there have been times when I have felt quite overwhelmed by it.
But thanks to Rodger’s straight forward and practical approach, and breaking it down into manageable chunks, I’m confident we’ll get this done and will be welcoming clients back into the gardens soon.
When carrying out the risk assessment, these are the basic steps:
The key control measure is social distancing and having small “bubble” groups will help to minimise contacts during the day.
We will use staggered start/finish/break times to allow more space in key areas, mark out some one-way routes where there are ‘pinch points’ and use signs and visual prompts to keep reminding everyone to ‘keep their distance’.
Before the clients come back for their first session, we will send them a short video of how the new procedures will work. That will help them to feel less anxious about changes.
Mencap have produced a very good ‘Easy Read Covid-19 Guide’ which we will also send out to our client gardeners with learning disabilities:
During lock down, so many more people have developed an increased interest in, and had positive experiences of, the benefits of time in natureKathryn
We also need to be realistic that some clients will not return – some may be too unwell to return, some may find the whole idea of ‘going out’ again too much, or are just no longer interested.
For some, their care packages are being changed.
I attended a provider forum webinar recently, run by one of our local authorities, where a social care provider had seen a drop in poor behaviour since lockdown and evidence that a full week of ‘day care activities’ might actually be detrimental to some individuals. We hope the added value and benefits of gardening and being outdoors will mean that those sessions aren’t the ones that are removed.
On the flip side, we have also seen an increase in enquiries about availability on our programmes.
During lock down, so many more people have developed an increased interest in, and had positive experiences of, the benefits of time in nature; it is fantastic to see that translating into new referrals.
Approached with a positive mindset, we can use the restoration of the gardens to help the clients understand and come to terms with the changes taking place in society, a whole host of new normals – our new realityKathryn
But we mustn’t forget it’s not just the clients who are keen but anxious about getting back to the garden.
In a survey of Thrive staff still on furlough, nearly a quarter said they were ‘not so confident’ or ‘not at all confident’ about returning to the workplace and three-quarters of them cited at least one thing that was concerning them.
Reading through their concerns, much stems from a lack of knowledge about how things will be when they return and what they will be expected to deal with – how will social distancing be maintained? How will we prevent overcrowding in communal areas? How will we keep everything clean?
And these concerns come on top of others about their own safety and health, e.g. commuting to work or needing to care for an elderly parent, concerns about what state the gardens will be in after minimal maintenance for the last four months and how that will impact the health and wellbeing of the clients.
As with clients, we will walk staff and volunteers through the new procedures, get their inputs on what will/won’t work and how we can adapt.
As STH practitioners, they are experienced in taking a problem and looking for solutions - they do it every day in the gardens with the clients - and they know the gardens and the clients better than anyone else.
We will provide them with refresher training to remind them that, in terms of STH, some of the greatest gains for clients are achieved through the process of restoration and transformation, letting go of the past to create a new beginning: creating order where there was chaos, seeing the results of their work in real time as paths are cleared, grass mown and edges tidied.
The temptation to bring in an army of volunteers, to blitz the garden and get it looking right for the clients’ return, may actually deprive the clients of opportunity for renewal.
Approached with a positive mindset, we can use the restoration of the gardens to help the clients understand and come to terms with the changes taking place in society, a whole host of new normals – our new reality.
So, there will be no working parties, no grand re-opening, just a carefully considered and mindful, staged return for staff, volunteers and clients alike. And a lot of risk assessments!