Cerebral Palsy Scotland volunteer Bernie Hunter examines how accessible groups have coped during Covid restrictions, and recommends three great accessible groups that you might like to try.
Things are looking a bit brighter this summer and we are on the road to activities restarting after being brought to a halt due to the pandemic. It has been a challenging time for accessible groups to find alternative ways of continuing to provide services. In this blog, I will explain what these obstacles were as well as suggesting groups that are suitable for people who have additional support needs.
In spring last year when the country went into lockdown due to Covid-19, a lot of services had to stop including accessible groups. There are a range of clubs that provide activities such as music, dance and art – not to mention the social aspect of people coming together, which is really important. Like everyone, organisers had to find a new way of keeping their groups going but they had to make sure that it was inclusive.
Many clubs had to accept that they couldn’t have a social environment during lockdown so they turned to the online video calling platform, Zoom. It was a totally different way of working for both organisations and participants which required learning but thankfully they found new ways that allowed them to continue services and people could participate in activities, safely at home.
Here are some accessible groups that are available for people who have additional support needs:
Paragon is an inclusive music and dance organisation that creates an accessible pathway into the arts. Professional musicians and dancers bring people together to create music and dance, helping participants to learn new skills and perform in front of live audiences. During spring 2020, it was clear that the organisation was not going to be able to run music and dance workshops in person so they turned to Zoom. To begin with, it was a challenge as not everyone has musical instruments in their houses so Paragon had to provide instruments and equipment. Despite the difficulties they faced Paragon still managed to operate by running their workshops online and presenting a range of fantastic livestreams on YouTube.
The Glasgow based organisation is located in the CCA in Sauchiehall Street and is hoping to restart workshops in person in the next couple of months. Check out Paragon’s website for details.
I have observed that I dance more in one place mostly due to the fact that I no longer had a partner to assist me with moving my wheelchair- Eilidh McGrath (talking about dancing on Zoom in her bedroom)
PLUS is a charity that supports children, young people and adults who have additional support needs along with their families. Working across the Forth Valley, they focus on breaking down barriers when it comes to social isolation that many young people can face, and even more so during the Covid-19 pandemic. PLUS provides a wide range of services from social events to community activities and specific groups such as after school events. One to one support is also available within family homes and out in the community, and the charity also offers support to families which happens via their parent & toddler and the parent support group.
Based in Stirling, the charity provides the service across the wider Forth Valley which includes Falkirk. People can join PLUS through a referral which can be made by families, health visitors, social work or education. The services that PLUS deliver can differ, depending on where people stay and this is due to funding in regions. PLUS members have to supply funding themselves which can be done through their own budget or from social work. You can get more information on the PLUS website.
Like many other charities, PLUS had to stop their services in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic which meant having to cut down to just three staff members. The charity was delighted to receive Covid-19 funding which allowed them to reopen with more staff in June 2021. There has been changes in the way PLUS works, ensuring everyone has confidence when attending the services, such as new safety measures. During lockdown, PLUS was providing online services via zoom. Activities such as signing, music & quiz sessions. As restrictions start to ease further, PLUS is now building up to restart larger groups and provide more services like they did before lockdown. There is a substantial waiting list with lots of referrals but the charity is hoping to reduce the list, over the coming months.
When I’m at PLUS I feel happy it’s a great place to meet friends and have a laugh. We are like one big happy family when I’m working, I feel like I have a purpose to take care of the young people that I support -Harris Menshawi (PLUS volunteer)
Nordoff Robbins Scotland
Nordoff Robbins is a charity that provides music therapy sessions to people who are living with disabilities, people who are isolated or have life-shortening conditions. The charity creates an opportunity for people to go along to music sessions and try instruments, play with others and enjoy music. Nordoff Robbins work in partnership with a range of different organisations including schools, NHS and other charities.
The charity offers an Open Access service where people can make direct referrals in order to attend the music sessions- find out more information on the Nordoff Robbins website.
Nordoff Robbins has four centres across Scotland- Fife, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow (currently closed to Covid-19 restrictions). The pandemic has had a big impact on the charity so Nordoff Robbins had to find a new way of providing music therapy to people. They have managed to continue a small service online using Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
I really enjoyed the music therapy sessions in school and online during lockdown. They were really fun and interactive and the people were so friendly! – Ryan Callaghan (Nordoff Robbins participant)