Refusing to be complacent allows us to survive and thrive

Norwood carer and service user. (C) Blake Ezra Photography Ltd. 2021
Norwood carer and service user. (C) Blake Ezra Photography Ltd. 2021

The past 19 months of the Covid pandemic have seen issues of mental health, anxiety and isolation increasingly pervade our discourse, as the effects of the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on some of the most vulnerable members of society. For people with learning disabilities and complex needs, the impact has been even more pointed, as many of their conditions make the need for routine and consistency that much more vital for their broader care and wellbeing.

Norwood has been that constant for the people we support over the past 19 months, as it has been throughout its 225-year history. In the face of uncertainty, we have adapted the bespoke personalised services for which we are known, to provide dependable and holistic support and care to meet the needs of our community’s most vulnerable members when, where and however they occur.

The recent Survation survey we commissioned has painted a stark picture of the growing need within our community. On the one hand, it points to some positive ground gained in reducing the stigma over seeking additional support, with over 90% of respondents claiming they would access additional support for a child in their family experiencing barriers to learning or challenges to their social and emotional wellbeing. That tells us that public attitude and acceptance towards learning disabilities, complex needs and mental wellbeing have changed significantly, which is a positive step on the way to achieving our mission of true social inclusivity, where people with learning disabilities and mental health challenges are supported to make full and meaningful contributions to their communities.

The role of charities such as Norwood and our fellow advocates in the sector has been integral to this sea change in attitudes and we hope that with the continued support of public figures from policy makers to our communal leaders, we can continue to break age-old taboos.

On the other hand, the fact that one in five people thought they’d be ‘likely’ to need additional support for themselves or a member of their family over the next three years shows the scale of the challenge for social care providers like Norwood and the ever-increasing pressures the sector is faced with.

The fact that 93% of people recognise the invaluable role that Jewish charities play in assessing our community’s social care needs and making appropriate services available and accessible for them reinforces how vital a role Norwood is perceived to play and reflects why our community and our Jewish ethos are such an important part of the fabric of Norwood as an organisation.

That only 10% of respondents would actively seek additional support outside of the Jewish community is no less surprising – our added value in providing that care in a Jewish framework is self-evident. It takes a community to nurture talent and support our members to fulfil their potential and give back to our community and that is certainly true of the children and their families we support in challenging circumstances, as well as people of all ages with learning disabilities and autism.

That’s why we’ve chosen to highlight many of those stories of togetherness in our forthcoming #TogetherWeAre campaign – from the family support worker who enabled the parents of Joe, a young adult with autism, to see his potential and engage with him in a meaningful way, to Laurie, an adult we support with learning disabilities, and the manager of his residential home Eugene who brought new possibilities to his life, when Laurie’s parents had only ever been told to lower their expectations for him.

We have always prided ourselves on our ability to adapt to and with the needs of the community, a fact that means we refuse to be complacent to the scale of the challenge or the need for us to continue to adapt to allow us not just to survive but to thrive on behalf of the people we support. But our raison d’etre isn’t only to provide that sense of community for the people we support – for us to truly thrive, we need the support of our community. The cost of quality care far exceeds the statutory funding we receive for our vital services and for us to continue to be a constant and dependable source of support, a second family for the vulnerable members of our community, to ensure they will have someone to care for them when their families are no longer able to be there, we need to raise £12m in voluntary donations each year.

That’s why we hope our community will engage with the relationships at the heart of Norwood which are so important in enabling and empowering the people we support to live meaningful and fulfilling lives. And that they will support our #TogetherWeAre campaign from 10 am on 7 November to 10pm on 8 November. During these 36 hours, every £1 donated by the community will be doubled thanks to funds committed by a generous group of Norwood supporters, helping us to meet our target.

For more information, email togetherweare@norwood.org.uk. Please donate whatever you can at www.charityextra.com/norwood
Dr Beverley Jacobson, Chief Executive, Norwood

About the Author
Dr Beverley Jacobson is the Chief Executive of Norwood
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