Customers of our Team created the friendship group in 2017, in order to get more from their personalised care and support services and to enjoy new experiences.
In its first 12 months the group enjoyed trips to Blackpool, the Lake District, Chester Zoo, London, and the set of TV soap Emmerdale. They also organised walks in the park, a Christmas party, attended music concerts and went to the panto. A group of members planned a cruise to Spain together, while others went on a rail trip to the Scottish Highlands.
Members of the Friendship Group keep in touch via a dedicated Facebook group and meet quarterly to plan their trips and holidays.
At the group's recent meeting in March, 50 members discussed their plans for the year ahead, catching up with their friends while they enjoyed an indoor BBQ and buffet. Rebecca (pictured below) attended the meeting and said the food was fantastic. She is very excited about the next meeting as she has lots of fundraising ideas and she is looking forward to trips they have planned.
In April the group went on an accessible boat trip and further events planned include a coach trip to Blackpool and a summer karaoke party.
Ann Thompson, Supported Living Team Manager at Persona said:
“For the people in the group it’s been transformative. It’s widened people’s opportunities to socialise, helped build their confidence and enjoy experiences which just wouldn’t have been possible before. The group run and organise things themselves - coming up with the ideas for things they want to do. We’re just there to support them, with a Persona Supported Living team member always there on each trip to provide the help that’s needed.”
Persona customer Paul Hather said: “I have three hours of support three times a week from Persona to help me with things like managing my tenancy. The Friendship Group means I can share hours with someone else so I can do more things like enjoy day trips. I’ve been to London for the first time and on days out to the Lake District and to Chester Zoo. And I’m going to Blackpool on holiday in March.
“It was my 50th birthday recently and I’d planned to just go for a few drinks with some friends. But because of all the new friends I had made through the Friendship Group I organised a big party which lots of them came to.”
Support worker Stella Parker said: “Behind the scenes it takes a bit of organisation to make sure we calculate people’s hours so we can cover what people want to do. We also need to make sure the right team member is going for each trip and that issues such as safeguarding are fully covered. It works because we’ve built a lot of flexibility into it - so if someone like Paul didn’t need to use any of his regular support hours one week he could save them up and use them towards a trip.”
Kat Sowden, Persona Managing Director said:
“We’ve always supported people individually to enjoy new experiences and to live life to the full. But that was usually on a one on one basis with one support worker and one customer.
“The Friendship Group has been a win-win for everyone and show’s what’s possible if we think of innovative ways to deliver services.”
The Persona Friendship Group is currently looking for volunteers to help provide further support to Bury residents with learning disabilities to enjoy new experiences, holidays and day trips.
Please email Ann Thompson - email@example.com - for more information.