Making preparations for Christmas in a large day service is not easy. How do you cater for people aged between 18 and 72 with varying abilities?
For me, Christmas in day services is a hard task. How do we ensure we meet everyone’s preferences and wishes, and get it right? If I am honest we probably don’t, but we give it a good go.
We start early in December by offering people a pub lunch with a small group of their friends and keyworkers. This usually goes down a treat. We have taken to using the same public houses each year, as we know that in these places we get treated as we should. Unfortunately, we still have the “bah humbug” brigade who are intolerant and ignorant of other’s needs, and do not accept people with learning difficulties.
During the last week in December we provide a Christmas lunch for everyone who uses the service. The managers wait on the staff and users, just to show our appreciation for the hard work over the past year.
The only downside of this is that waiting on more than 100 people takes quite some time, and don’t you know it when you finally serve that last Christmas pudding!
We offer some entertainment after lunch – usually a karaoke – but this is where people start to lose interest as not everyone can cope with the next X Factor wannabes.
We also give a Christmas party. We book a venue away from the day service that has a bar, disco and smoochy dance songs. There is even the odd fall-out. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? For those who don’t enjoy parties, we ensure that there are staff to cover in the day service.
The venues we want to use must provide wheelchair access, have suitable changing and toilet facilities and meet special dietary requirements if needed. We do our best to offer a range of activities over the festive period, although they are far from being person-centred. We offer a traditional English Christmas and expect everyone to join in and enjoy themselves.
On reflection, do we put as much time and effort in to helping people who do not have a Christian heritage celebrate the religious festivals that are important to them? Sadly, the answer is “no”.
This highlights the difficulties in meeting individual need when we still have a large number of people reliant upon day services. Hopefully, as we modernise further, we will be able to facilitate a more personal festival celebration.
As for me, I usually find myself worn out after ensuring Christmas happens in the day service; but I have to recharge my batteries quickly to do it again at home.
Nichola Glover-Edge manages a day service for people with learning difficulties in Staffordshire