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More sensory clinics to transform vaccination experience for young people with learning disabilities and autism

A Covid vaccination clinic, aimed at helping young people with learning disabilities conquer their fear of needles, has been so successful that further sessions are now planned.

Sandra, whose son Brandon has a learning disability and autism, described as “amazing” the pilot sensory clinic, set up by the charity Wandsworth Share Community working with the NHS. She said: “After all these years of Brandon being terrified of needles and tests, this has worked. I am so thankful to Share and the NHS.

“Due to this wonderful clinic set up in soothing surroundings, he had his jab with no problems. I am so happy knowing he has protection. I am going to have [the jab] now too.”

Wandsworth GP, Dr Nicky Williams, led the clinic, accompanied by nurse Tor Godfrey and volunteer retired nurse, Caren Buchanan. According to Dr Williams: “We were so pleased to vaccinate over 30 young people and their parents at this special clinic in a soothing environment surrounded by virtual images. It definitely reduced any distress for everyone who came forward. We reassured everyone attending that they would hardly feel the jab and if it is done quickly it does not hurt. The vaccines are safe and over 30 million people in the UK have now had the vaccination.”

Annie McDowell, CEO of Share Community, said: “Our first sensory vaccination clinic was such a success we are planning to hold another one. For people with learning disabilities, the surroundings are so important to minimise any stress. Together with the NHS, we set up virtual projections with wonderful distractions such as swimming turtles and calm music. This was a very happy day for us.”

Naomi Good, patient engagement manager from South West London NHS, explained the background to the project: “I am just so proud to be part of this. From holding our engagement sessions online, an idea was sparked and our local GP, together with Share, made it a reality. This shows the power of listening and working together with our patients to make sure any barriers to healthcare access can be overcome. The power of the arts in healthcare is very important, can save lives and is something we hope to take forward following the pandemic.”

Anyone who is on their GP’s learning disability register is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination.

Find out what the sensory clinic looked like and hear what people thought in this video.

Young people from Share Community also worked with the NHS on a video to reassure their fellow students in advance of the session. It includes a chance to meet Dr Nicky Williams and a walk through of the sensory clinic. Visit Share Community to watch the video.

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COVID-19 vaccination this weekend at walk-in sessions

Are you eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination but haven’t got around to booking your appointment yet?  This weekend there will be two walk-in sessions, where you can come along and have your vaccination without the need to book an appointment. South West London Clinical Commissioning group has announced the foillowing:

  • Saturday 10th April, Centre Court Shopping Centre, Wimbledon, between 10am and 4pm
  • Sunday 11th April, Selhurst Park Stadium, Croydon, between 10am and 4pm

The sessions are available if you’re a front line health and care worker, aged over 30, or you’re over the age of 50 and you haven’t yet had your first COVID-19 vaccine. You can come along to have your jab with either a document with your proof age or your employment ID – without the need to book an appointment.

So, join the over 680,000 residents across south west London, who have already had their COVID-19 vaccination, in the fight against coronavirus. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective and is the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community. 

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Sign up to have your say on the development of the London fire service in your community

London Fire Brigade is launching an ambitious new programme of engagement to capture the views of all Londoners.

The Brigade wants to reach out particularly to underrepresented and marginalised groups, such as those from Black, Asian and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, disabled people, faith groups and other seldom-heard groups. The initiative will give residents the opportunity to have their say on what the capital’s fire service should look like.

“When London Fire Commissioner, Andy Roe, came to office just over a year ago, he pledged that the Brigade would listen to and put communities at the heart of the work it does to regain trust. One of the Commissioner’s priorities was to reach out to the communities affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, to listen to them and speak honestly about how he intended to transform the Brigade,” said a spokesperson.

“We will be piloting our engagement work in eight London boroughs throughout the next year. Once the pilot has successfully concluded, the Brigade will begin to widen the scope and engage with communities across London

“Help us shape our services. We’re listening.


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Plans underway to create Sutton Works project – to support the borough’s town centre

Sutton Council have begun plans to appoint a partner to design, develop and operate the Sutton Works project.

Sutton Works is a key element of the Council’s strategy to make the borough’s town centre a more attractive place to live, work and visit.

The business incubator will be created on the upper floors of the former BHS department store (above the current H&M) in Sutton Town Centre. It will provide a hub offering space for start-ups, business support and flexible and incubation space, including for local digital, tech, and innovation businesses, alongside community events, educational spaces and a roof garden. 

The Council secured £2.2m of external funding to support the delivery of the project and has identified a preferred partner to design, develop and operate the project, following a rigorous selection process.

It complements and supports the five projects that will be delivered through the recent award to the Council of £11.35m, from the government’s Future High Street Fund.

The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated a cultural shift in people’s daily habits, resulting in greater flexibility in working patterns and location preferences. With a move back towards a new normal, the business incubator will offer Sutton residents and businesses workspace variation and much greater opportunities for collaboration.

Delivering social value is also a key component of the project. One initiative will be to develop an intergenerational growing project on its roof, where Age UK Sutton will partner with Sutton Community Farm and local schools. It will also provide space for other key partners to engage with local residents and to promote educational and career opportunities. These activities will support the Council’s ambition to make Sutton age-friendly and to deliver new opportunities for local people and businesses.

Councillor Jayne McCoy, Deputy Leader of the Council, said:

“Sutton Works sets a strong, deliverable vision for the future of Sutton Town Centre.

“We want to provide an innovative facility that offers jobs and opportunities for our residents and we are delighted to get this operator appointment process underway.

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Shared Lives scheme – helping adults with learning disabilities in the borough to realise their full potential

The Shared Lives scheme funded by Sutton Council and delivered by Encompass, provides vulnerable adults in Sutton the opportunity to live with a family.

Nickel Support enables adults with learning disabilities to build on their life and employment skills. 

The Sutton Shared Lives Service recruits and supports paid carers to work with adults with learning disabilities, mental health needs and older people. Shared Lives carers offer their homes and family life to provide a safe place for vulnerable adults to live, have a short break or engage in day activities.

Currently there are 31 vulnerable people in Sutton living with another family as part of the Shared Lives Scheme.

Thomas Patten, a Shared Lives service user tells us about his experience;
“I really enjoy being part of a family and having conversations and all the interactions. We have been on lots of walks together over lockdown. 

The Shared Lives service has been great for me and has helped to prepare me with the life skills I will need in future.”

Thomas is also a trainee at Nickel Support. Nickel Support is a local social enterprise in Carshalton that supports adults with learning disabilities through a variety of sessions to develop skills and build confidence with a particular focus on employment.

Thomas joined Nickel Support as a trainee in 2016. He says;
“I love it. It has changed me. I am so much more confident now and a better person all round.”

Elena Nicola set up Nickel Support in 2012 with co-founder Nick Walsh;
“My business partner and I were frustrated with the learning disability sector and the same traditional approaches with limited positive end results. We decided to take the plunge and use our own experience and skills in the sector to create a unique service that offers support in a much more dynamic and powerful way. We set up Nickel Support and have never looked back.

Thomas came to us to improve his employability skills. We have also worked closely with him to work on positive relationships with people, as well as a number of other areas in his life, including his social well being and health in general. Supporting him in our holistic and person centred way has meant his confidence has grown so much, increasing his chance of gaining and retaining employment”.

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Covid garden of reflection to be created on St Helier Open Space

To mark the first anniversary since lockdown began, Sutton Council has announced plans for a COVID Garden of Reflection

To mark the first anniversary since lockdown began, Sutton Council in partnership with Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust and Sutton Housing Partnership is announcing plans for a COVID Garden of Reflection on St Helier open space, opposite the hospital. 

The idea for the garden emerged from local residents, Laura Devereux and Maureen Morant as a way to honour those who have sadly passed away over the last year and to celebrate the community spirit and hard work of NHS colleagues that has helped carry Sutton through the pandemic.

Work on creating the garden recently started with the planting of pine, birch and cherry trees. Additional features will be introduced over the next 12 months with further planting taking place from autumn 2021. The garden will officially open in spring 2022 and will include seating, carved sculptures, planted borders and wildflower meadows.

Councillor Trish Fivey, Mayor of Sutton said: 

“We know that it has been a hugely challenging year for everyone, with COVID impacting all aspects of our lives.

“In spite of the difficulties, the response from the community, voluntary and business sector in Sutton has been incredible and there are some truly remarkable and inspirational stories of people going out of their way to help neighbours, friends and family.

“I am delighted that now we will have a Garden of Reflection at St Helier which will serve as an ongoing reminder of what we’ve all been through and that when times are tough, people in Sutton will come together and will support each other”. 

Laura Devereux said: 

“We wanted to create somewhere special where people would have the opportunity to remember those they have lost during the pandemic, when normal rituals and gatherings have not been possible

“At the same time, the garden gives us a space to reflect on the strength of the community and give thanks to the NHS who looked after loved ones when we were not able to be there.  

“The growth of the trees and flowers, gives us hope of new beginnings.”