Certitude’s Response to Easing the Lockdown

Certitude’s Response to Easing the Lockdown

Certitude remains driven by its mission to keep everyone we support and colleagues as safe and well as possible during the coronavirus pandemic. 

We recognise that there are many challenges in coming out of lockdown and as such we will implement any changes very carefully, seeking the views of people where we possibly can and communicating any changes to those impacted by them. 

Our CEO, Aisling Duffy explains our position on easing the lockdown in the below video. For further information, please read:

People across Certitude have adapted with creativity and compassion to the enormous demand Covid-19 has placed on everyone. We now need to prepare for an extended period of living with and managing the threat from this virus. We will do this in a planned and responsive way, adapting as required to new learning so together we can help keep ourselves and each other as safe and well as possible. 

Thank you to everyone for your continued adherence to guidance and your ongoing commitment and support. 

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Working for a Mental Health Crisis Helpline During Coronavirus Lockdown

Working for a Mental Health Crisis Helpline During Coronavirus Lockdown

Solidarity in a Crisis (SIAC) is Certitude’s out-of-hours mental health crisis helpline in South London. 

Carolin Sternecker is one of our Peer Supporters with the service and has been supporting callers during the Covid-19 lockdown. She talked to us about what impact the lockdown has had on people’s mental health…

Carolin Sternecker, a SIAC Peer Support

Isolation in lockdown

All sorts of people are calling us right now; different ages, men and women, people who have had previous mental health issues and people who haven’t. Most of the calls are about the consequence of the lockdown rather than the fear of the virus itself. Isolation is the biggest challenge and it’s causing a great deal of anxiety. 
Not being able to get out to socialise or participate in activities is a real problem. If you are stuck in London in a flat with no garden or balcony and you are frightened to leave the house because you have an underlying health issues – plus no one can visit – it’s very hard. 
People are lonely and missing friends, family and workmates. We operate the helpline in the evenings and weekends because this is when people are most likely to feel overwhelmed and experience a mental health crisis. 
Our callers range from feeling anxious to suicidal.

Overwhelmed

I know from SIAC’s monthly report that calls to the helpline are up over 80% compared to January this year and that the biggest increase is from younger people and men. 

So many people are overwhelmed by worries about housing, jobs and money, and all their usual support systems have broken down.

Not getting on with people we live with is also a problem. I recently took a call from a woman who had moved into a new shared house before the lockdown and now she feels stuck with a group of strangers. 
Lockdown is also proving a problem for couples living together where things aren’t working out – a situation made so much worse because they can’t let off steam in the usual ways, for example meeting friends or going to the gym. I have certainly noticed more domestic violence calls – affecting both men and women.

Reassurance in routine

My job is to listen and reassure and then signpost people to other specialist services such as domestic abuse or substance abuse charities. Sometimes people are ready for advice and sometimes they just want someone to listen.
Speaking with someone who has lived experience helps support recovery by giving hope. Lived experience provides peer-supporters with the empathy and knowledge required to help someone navigate statutory and other support services. By bearing witness to what individuals are going through and sharing experiences, we help develop confidence and knowledge of support services. Our approach encourages people to speak without having to monitor their language or feel there is a doctor-patient hierarchy. 
We also reassure our callers that it’s ‘ok not to be ok’ and encourage people to contact friends, family and support services if they feel like they would benefit from a little extra help. We are still working hard to reduce the stigma that accompanies feelings of needing support with mental health.

If they are ready, the most common piece of advice I am giving right now is encouraging people to commit to a daily routine which includes regular exercise and a consistent sleep routine. 

So many people feel they have nothing to get up for but having a routine can make a real difference, providing purpose and focus.
Solidarity in a Crisis helpline:
Freephone: 0300 123 1922
Text: 07889756087 or 07889756083
Opening times:
Monday to Friday: 6.00PM-12.00AM
Saturday and Sunday: 12.00PM-12.00AM
 
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Thank you for your help

Thank you for your help

Since being restricted to our homes, and with the closure of our usual activities, life has been challenging. We have been bowled over by the demonstration of creativity, patience and love from people we support, our incredible support teams, central services staff, volunteers – and people like you, who continue to support us during this time.

You may have seen or taken part in the 2.6 Challenge a few weeks ago, where we raised around £2000, which we put towards making life easier and happier for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health support needs across the capital. 

People like you have donated time, money and/or expertise because you believe, as we do, that everybody deserves the right to a good life.

Your support is already making a difference – just look at some of these kind donations, which are currently making their way across London to people who will really appreciate it.

Your support and belief that everyone has the right to live a good life makes us hopeful and positive for the future. 

We are so grateful, and wanted to say a huge thank you to every single person who has donated, spread the word or cheered us on from home. 

Thank you so much! We can’t wait for a time when we can all be together again – going to day centres, attending events, enjoying simple visits – but for now, this has all been a huge help. 


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Calls to mental health crisis helpline in London almost double during lockdown

Calls to mental health crisis helpline in London almost double during lockdown

Solidarity in a Crisis, which operates an out-of-hours mental health crisis helpline in Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark has seen a dramatic rise in calls since the beginning of the lockdown.

 

In April, calls increased by 46% compared to February and 87% compared to January 2020. Calls to the helpline are expected to be even higher in May, representing a dramatic increase in the number of Londoners feeling overwhelmed during the pandemic.

 

The largest increase in calls came from those reporting anxiety with many individuals attributing this to Covid-19 and employment. Most respondents listed anxiety, depression and emotional distress at the primary reason for their call. The number of callers increased across most age bandings, with calls from individuals aged between 18-25 and 65+ representing the largest increases. There has also been a significant increase in calls from men in the last two months, although women are still four times more likely to call for help.


Alexander Robertson, who manages our Solidarity in a Crisis service, says:

 

“We are seeing that many more people than usual – and particularly younger people – are feeling overwhelmed by multiple issues. They are worried about housing, jobs and financial issues and they don’t know where to go for support. Our peer supporters are able to talk people through their initial crisis and then signpost them towards a range of different services. 


We operate out-of-hours – in the evenings and at weekends – as this is when people tend to feel more overwhelmed. I would urge anyone living in the areas we cover, who is feeling like they are not coping, to give us a ring. Our highly-trained peer supporters are ready to listen and bring their personal experience of mental health issues to any situations.” 

 
 
Solidarity in a Crisis helpline:
Freephone: 0300 123 1922
Text: 07889756087 or 07889756083
Opening times:
Monday to Friday: 6.00PM-12.00AM
Saturday and Sunday: 12.00PM-12.00AM

The ‘New Normal’

The ‘New Normal’

Have you ever wished you had more time to learn a musical instrument, to cook, to garden, to decorate, to read, to clear out all that clutter? Janice Joannou, Certitude’s Head of Learning & Organisation Development, thinks some of us may now be careful what we wish for… 

Janice, Head of Learning & Organisation Development

Big changes

On 23rd March, like many people (1.5 million to be more precise), I was told I needed to self-isolate for a minimum of 12 weeks. No leaving the house, no family contact (other than by phone/video call) and at first, no access to online food shopping. 

For the first week or so I was obsessed with just getting a food delivery slot.

In my quest, I did pick up a very useful tip when registering with the Government as an ‘extremely vulnerable person’ (after I’d received my official letter confirming I was part of this elite group). As a vulnerable person, my details were shared with supermarkets so they could offer me ‘priority’ delivery slots when they became available. But until this was sorted out, Government-issued food parcels mysteriously appeared at my front door each week.

Surreal

It all felt so surreal – stuck in my cocoon, isolated from the world, safe, warm and fed, yet every news story was filled with the horror of the Covid-19 crisis and its devastation upon so many unsuspecting victims. Our wonderful NHS creaking and almost breaking under the strain of it all. Even those who have supported the systematic underfunding of the NHS over the past decade, publicly applauding a new generation of ‘heroes.’

Finding perspective

I have always thought that people’s ability to deal with adversity and adapt to change is quite remarkable. Is it possible to find something positive in our current situation – to find beauty in the smallest things, to remember what we can all be truly grateful for. 
Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison and dedicated his whole life to fighting apartheid, said: 

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

Viktor Frankl, who survived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, wrote in his book, ‘Man’s search for Meaning’:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Looking after myself

By comparison, my isolation is a walk-in-the-park. This is how I start each Ground Hog day:

  • I remind myself how fortunate I am to have somewhere safe and warm to live. 

  • I keep updated but don’t obsess about Covid-19 news. 

  • I use my personal time productively (i.e. I set myself goals that don’t just include Netflix and eating).

  • I make time for exercise, I listen to music and get out in the garden. I make sure I speak to someone other than the cat each day.

  • I remember and am happy that I work for an organisation that provides incredible services and which makes such a huge impact on people’s lives. 

  • I think about the commitment and tireless energy being shown by our operational staff and look for ways we can better support them at this time. 

  • I am grateful that I work for an organisation that cares for its employees and is finding ways to ensure we all stay safe.

We are told that things will never be the same again.

If this means the planet is healing, and we remember how to be kind to each other again, then that is undoubtedly a good thing.

Let’s get ready for our ‘new normal’ and be proactive in creating a future that works for all of us.

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Embracing The Unknown: My New Role During Lockdown

Embracing The Unknown: My New Role During Lockdown

Magda is a Certitude Support Worker, who has recently moved from working at a day centre to a ‘Supported Living’ house to help the team during the Covid-19 crisis.  Here she writes about her experiences working with a new team in a new environment and what she is learning along the way. 

Magda, a Certitude Support Worker

So it happened. The decision to close Certitude’s day centres has been made. Now I’m standing in front of the door of a Supported Living house, expected to work here, temporarily. Pressing the bell, I feel confused and unsettled. What am I supposed to do? How can I transfer my skills and knowledge into such a different environment than the one I’ve known for such a long time?

Starting again

I ask the support workers who already work here hundreds of questions, with hundreds others still in my head. Supporting people for almost 5 years, I feel like I’m starting a new job, not really sure what to do, but with the same desire as always: 

I want to be useful I don’t want to just stand there and watch, I want to be able to do all of those things myself – and do them to the best of my ability. 

Since I got out of my comfort zone, facing this new reality with so many changes, working various shifts, irregular hours and sleep-ins, I sometimes feel like I’ve lost my balance. I know that might sound ridiculous, but working at a day centre is just so different from Supported Living in many ways, one of which being the regular and predictable routine of the day and week.

Let’s start with that – the routine. I’m not talking about my routine. I am here for these people, and they struggle even more than I do. Their lives used to be so busy and their schedules full of activities; shopping, day centre, lunch, open sessions, cinema, pub. Yet all of this just disappeared from their lives within a few days. It is so difficult to comprehend. I don’t have to know them well to see the impact of lockdown on their life and mood. The importance of routine to human beings is often overlooked.

Learning to adapt

So I am learning. I am taking it day by day with simple steps, asking many questions, without expectations and with a lot of gaps to fill. Through growing my knowledge, observations, experience and conversations, through bonding, having help from my new team mates and working my first lone shifts, slowly, gradually, the tension starts to ease…

I am learning it doesn’t matter what happens in one week, one month or six.

Let’s just focus on today and try to make the best of it. Let’s make a bed together, cook dinner and have a chat whilst peeling carrots. Let’s go for a walk since the day is sunny and warm, then try some activities online to fill in those gaps during the day.

It is all doable and it feels so good when you see that somebody you have only known 2 weeks is starting to trust you and allow you to be a part of their life.

Feeling grateful

There is another aspect to this: I feel even more appreciation for my job. Not only can I leave my home, but I can do something meaningful, I can make a difference to somebody’s life, I can learn new things, I can develop and improve. Of course at the same time I can feel a bit overwhelmed with some tasks, confused about where all this clothing, belongs, panicky about cooking this huge lamb leg – but it takes my mind off everyday worries and overthinking. 

My new role helps me refocus and it’s saving me in these difficult times we are all facing.

Thank you to all people I support; I received and learnt so much from you! Thank you to my current team for your help, patience, understanding and for sharing your knowledge with me. And thank you to my original team as you are doing exactly the same as me, facing those challenges and overcoming them so beautifully. You are all an amazing bunch of people and I am so grateful I can share my path with you!

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Certitude Covid-19 Update

Certitude Covid-19 Update

As someone who cares about Certitude, you might be wondering how the current situation is directly impacting the 1500 people we support across London. 

The truth is, it’s a tough time. 

It’s hard for all of us to make sense of what’s happening at the moment, and for many people with learning disabilities and/or autism, the changes to day-to-day life have been significant and really challenging. Not being able to see loved ones or having the freedom to go out and enjoy regular activities has understandably had an impact on everyone’s mental health. 

How you can help 

Our incredible Support Workers are working around the clock to keep everybody motivated, engaged and smiling during this difficult time. 

If you have any spare games, art and craft sets, colouring books, pencils, paints, and/or lovely smellies and goodies you would be happy to donate, please email: coronavirusfaq@certitude.london.

We’ve created an Amazon wish list to give you an idea of the sorts of things that will really make a difference to people’s lives right now, both for people we support and our dedicated Support Workers. 

We would appreciate anything you can purchase from the list. 

Alternatively, you can donate directly to us using the button below. Any donations we receive will towards making life happier and easier for people we support and our incredible Support Workers – who truly deserve their #ClapForCarers on a Thursday evening, plus so much more. 

We will get through these tough times. 

We will be posting some uplifting stories of how people are thriving in these challenging times – and maybe you will see your donation bringing a smile to someone’s face. For now, thank you for your support and for any donations you are able to give.

Tribute to Barbara West

Tribute to Barbara West

Barbara West, a wonderful woman who lived in Isleworth and whom we supported for many years, sadly died in hospital recently, having been diagnosed with Covid-19.

This week, BBC Breakfast featured a wonderful tribute to Barbara, in which her sister, Frances, and Certitude CEO, Aisling Duffy, remembered her life and raised issues about the impact Covid-19 may have on people with learning disabilities, particularly around hospital admissions.

Life and soul

Everyone who knew Barbara knew that she had a very active social life, was a keen drummer and loved bowling. Aisling described her as “the most feisty, fun-loving, charming, humorous, life-and-soul of the party.” Those close to Barbara also know just how much she would have loved being on TV!


Frances said of her sister: 

“She loved the limelight – often taking the mic and “talking” or “singing” in her own way when given the opportunity at get-togethers. She never really could speak clearly or form sentences, but you could figure out what she wanted – or didn’t want. She had a strong personality (runs in the family) and could hold her own” 

Indy, House Manager at Finney Lane, remembers a story that he feels summed up Barbara’s character:
“My fondest memory was when we went to Littlehampton beach. She disappeared for five minutes, causing staff to go into panic mode. Then all of a sudden, she waltzed out of a nearby changing room in her bikini and sunglasses – she had worn her bikini under her clothes without anyone knowing! All the staff just laughed our heads off – this was Babs through and through, unpredictable and with a mind of her own.”

Impact of Covid-19 on hospital admissions

On BBC Breakfast, Frances talked about how difficult it was not being able to visit her sister in the hospital: “They wouldn’t let any visitors in after she tested positive, so she was in hospital for several weeks on her own.” 

Aisling said:

“Good health care for people with learning disabilities in ordinary times requires the amazing advocacy by our staff and families. One of our biggest worries is people going into hospitals unaccompanied.”

As those who knew Barbara celebrate her life, people are understandably concerned about whether the needs of individuals will be met should they have to go to hospital during this time. We’d urge any family members to speak to your usual contact if you’re concerned about a loved one. Alternatively, you can contact: LJarman@certitude.london

Celebrating Barbara

In a final tribute written for her sister, Frances said: 

“One thing I wanted for Barb was to make sure people knew who she was, and [that she] was worthy of attention – unlike decades ago [when] people like her were kept out of the public eye – and she, like everyone else, deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated. I’m sure a lot of people would have attended the celebration of her life and everyone would have worn red – her favourite colour. 

The people who knew Barbara are celebrating her life in their own way – by wearing red or simply by remembering her ‘priceless’ sense of humour! As somebody who embraced life and had an impact on so many, Barbara will be hugely missed. 

Celebrating Autism Awareness Week

Celebrating Autism Awareness Week

For Autism Awareness Week we sat down (virtually) with one of our staff members, Ben, to talk about his experience as someone with autism.
Ben, a Certitude Outreach Support Worker

When did you know you had autism?

I first heard the word when I was diagnosed at nine years old. I was one of the first people who was diagnosed as having autism in the country in 1993.

How has autism been a challenge?

I believe that it was very helpful for me to be diagnosed at such a young age. I was able to grow up with autism and turn out as an adult who is comfortable living with it and is not ashamed of it.

What would you say to people that don’t know anything about autism?

I would suggest to others that they treat people with autism with respect, and know that people with autism aren’t stupid; people don’t understand how clever and independent people with autism can be!

Is it important to you for people to know more about autism?

Yes it is. The reason I wanted to join Certitude was so I could show people on the autistic spectrum and the general public that people with autism can do and achieve anything.

What are some of the things that make you proud to have autism?

I believe that people with autism have a great attention to detail, are great with numbers and have a great interest in many topics. It makes me open-minded and has also gifted me with a great imagination! I think that is something people should celebrate about autism more often.

How do you feel best supported at work?

As long as I am given the freedom to try new things and don’t feel I am spoken down to, I am pretty easy to work with!

Is there anything you have wanted to do that you haven’t got around to yet? Any big goals?

Well, I have already married, moved out of my mother’s house and started a podcast with my friends… Maybe having a child, starting a Certitude podcast and hopefully installing a work support program for the people we support here at Certitude. I am also looking forward to writing more blog posts for Certitude’s website!

Anything else you would like to add?

I am so happy that I have a job where I am excited every day to come into work with a smile. The workforce here is really great – everyone is great to each other. 
To find out more about what it’s like to work for Certitude and to see how you can use your skills to make a difference, visit: www.certitude.london/work-for-us

Supporting Communities & Fighting Labels: Angela’s Story

Supporting Communities & Fighting Labels: Angela’s Story

At the heart of Certitude are at its inspiring people, many of whom are following their passions both inside and outside of work.

Angela is a manager at Certitude & a model

Angela Selvarajah, a manager at Lancaster Avenue, is using her voice and leading the way in a confident new endeavour that is close to her heart.

Working with women in a supportive living home at Lancaster Avenue, who won the 2019 Michael Rosen Award for best team, Angela is clearly passionate about her role within Certitude, making sure everyone feels like it’s a place to be themselves. 
“I love spending time with the people we support. Quite often the ladies may pop into the office for a chat. I have gone out for lunch with one of our ladies as well as up the road just to sit on the bench and have a conversation which was really nice.” 
For many staff like Angela, working at Certitude is more than just a job and she goes above and beyond to provide her very best every day. 
“I often find things that I can share and relate with the ladies we support. I am happy in sharing personal experiences and talking openly, which I find really engages and strikes great conversations with the ladies here (at Lancaster Avenue). It just makes it real and more than a job, especially for our ladies, which seems to be great in building a working relationship.” 
Angela is also starting conversations outside of her work in a powerful way. At a young age, Angela was diagnosed with Vitiligo and she says it was something that came to define her. 
“I felt embarrassed and somewhat ashamed of what I looked like as it spread more around my body. Developing Vitiligo at an age where I should’ve been carefree and confidence was extremely difficult.” 
Angela models for Vitiligo Society UK

Over time, Angela has taken back the label that defined her, like so many people we support across Certitude.

She started by modelling for Vitiligo Society UK, a campaign that spreads awareness about her condition.
“Given the roller-coaster of emotions I have been through from first seeing, hiding, accepting and now exposing my Vitiligo, I can’t imagine what or even who I’d be without it. On a bad day, it feels like as if I’m losing my identity, but when I really think about it, my Vitiligo has become my identity.” 
Recently Angela was asked by an international model to be featured in her book, ‘She Wants To Move’. The book consists of 186 game-changing females from around the world, sharing their experiences and inspirational messages to support others who may need it. 
Angela says that spreading awareness, as well as support and encouragement, is natural to her, and that her Certitude journey has played a huge part in the work she has gone on to do. 
“My work through Certitude has definitely made me more confident in the outside world. I have grown through connecting with other non-judgemental individuals throughout the organisation, who have all seen me for what I am worth and not what I look like. This was also a starting point of my journey of self-love and acceptance of my Vitiligo.”
Lancaster Avenue won the Best Team award at Michael Rosen 2019