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Mums praise specialist day care workers for helping their families through the pandemic

Sheffield Day Services

Two mums have praised specialist day care staff at Sheffield Day Services for creating a “happy bubble” that supported their disabled children during the pandemic.

Mums Mandy Gale and Caroline Hallgarth appeared on BBC Radio Sheffield to describe how the Cygnet Health Care-run facility had provided a lifeline to care for their children, including allowing Caroline – a nurse caring for patients throughout the pandemic – to work long hours.

Caroline’s daughter Isabel, age 20, is non-verbal and has learning difficulties and autism, while Mandy’s son Connor has a diagnosis of autism with limited speech. Sheffield Day Services is based in Spa Lane, Woodhouse and specialises in supporting people with a learning disability, and those with complex health needs and physical disabilities.

Nurse Caroline said: “I can tell when I take Isabel to the centre that she loves to go. She can go for a walk every day, she has massages on her feet, she has a two-course lunch, they play her favourite music. She loves Adele and Little Mix and has a dance to that. They read her stories and they write it all in a book for me so that I know what she’s been doing.”

She added: “Other day services didn’t keep going through the pandemic. Cygnet did, and it’s made a huge difference to me.”

Now that Sheffield Day Services has been able to open its doors again to service users, Caroline says staff have “gone above and beyond” to protect Isabel. “They’ve completely reassured me, they’re in full PPE. I’m not allowed in the building, I drop her off at the door, and I know that they keep her safe.”

Mum Mandy added: “Connor needs a very structured routine to lower his anxieties and all these things are met. The people that work there are an absolute joy. They’re so engaging with Connor. I couldn’t ask for anything else. It’s more than a support for Connor, it brings it all to us and we’re in a happy bubble which is all down to Cygnet and the support, and it’s amazing. We couldn’t live without them.”

Talking to show host Toby Foster at BBC Radio Sheffield’s breakfast programme, Helen Ullyatt, Manager of the Sheffield Day Service, said she was overwhelmed by the praise. “It makes me feel quite emotional to be absolutely honest with you,” she said.

“We were instructed to close initially in the March last year because it was deemed unsafe to stay open with the numbers in Sheffield. The staff were all redeployed at very short notice to help out in other facilities so they had to learn new roles in environments that weren’t familiar to them, but they rose to that challenge. They’re an inspiration.”

“We’ve been keeping in contact constantly with our families, making sure they got the support. Even just a chat on the phone to someone can mean the world to a family. If they needed any shopping collecting, we could go out and get shopping for them. Then we did garden visits so the staff went out in their PPE and went on to people’s garden and did activities, to tell stories, social interactions, just so that we could keep that familiar face. That was the most important thing to us and for them.”

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