Hft as it launches its annual winter campaign, this year focussing on the powerful relationship between David and his support worker, Jo.’Having a learning disability does not have to be a barrier to achieving amazing things, especially with powerful care and support on your side.’
David, who grew up in Ashford, Middlesex, lived a happy life with his sisters, Alison and Melanie, and their loving parents, Joyce and Fred. They were a tight-knit family, with David at its core, and both David and his family refused to let his learning disability prevent him from achieving his goals.
As a teenager, he went off to a residential college with his best friend and relished in his independence and learning new skills. Meanwhile, his parents were thinking about what David’s next steps may be.
After 10 years on the waiting list, David received an invitation to join Hft in Sheffield where he continued to flourish. In 1992, his family and friends watched David win a gold medal in the 100-metre sprint at the Special Olympics in Reading. An incredibly proud day for everyone.
When Jo joined Hft as a support worker a few years later, she and David instantly formed a tight bond. She said:
“I absolutely adored David. We just clicked. We had a similar sense of humour and he loved my sarcasm. He was the cheekiest man. Endearing, affectionate and he knew what he wanted!”
Sadly, during the first lockdown in March 2020, David contracted COVID-19.
With a ban on all visitors to hospitals, national restrictions on travelling during lockdown and his sisters living in Cornwall and Surrey, David faced the very real prospect of dying alone.
A doctor treating David confirmed that should his life be deemed to be coming to an end, one person would be allowed to sit with him. He advised that living where the family did, there was every chance that they would not be able to get to the hospital in time when the call came.
When Jo heard about this, she instantly volunteered to stand in for them, determined David would not die without someone from his ‘family’ with him.
When the call came the following evening, Jo sat holding David’s hand during the last night of his life.
On the morning of 2nd April 2020, David peacefully slipped away.
Thanks to Jo, David spent his final hours comfortably and with the reassurance of a loving voice he knew so well. She also enabled David’s sisters to share a priceless moment on the phone that they can treasure forever – ensuring they could share a final conversation with him, filled with laughter, tears, and warmth.
Jo’s character and her devotion to comforting David exemplifies the dedication and compassion that defines Hft’s mission – to enable learning disabled people to live the best life possible.
It is just one of many powerful examples of how people working throughout the care sector go above and beyond to make a difference.
Despite the challenges of lockdown and the sadness of David’s death, Jo speaks proudly of the work of all social care workers, explaining:
“I know any one of my team would have helped David and any of David’s friends at the service. It was an incredibly stressful time for everyone but, up and down the country, social care workers went above and beyond for the people they support.
“These past few years have been the most difficult of the 22 years that I’ve worked at Hft. We have been faced with many challenges. Sadly, increasing fuel and food prices, amid other rising costs, haven’t translated into improved social care funding from central government. As a charity, we have carried the burden of bridging this gap.
“Our services are vital to ensuring everyone we support is able to live happily, healthily and with dignity this winter and beyond.”
Hft’s 2022 Sector Pulse Check report, published in partnership with Care England, found that over one-third of providers across the adult social care sector had considered exiting the market in 2022, as a result of cost pressures that Jo alludes to.
This statistic alone emphasises the extensive challenges facing the sector, but also how support workers continue to work tirelessly to ensure learning disabled adults receive the best care and can continue to live the life they choose, not just surviving but thriving.
As the days get shorter and temperatures drop on the approach to winter, Hft is calling on its supporters to help make a real difference in the lives of learning disabled adults.
If you would like to support learning disabled adults during the darkest months, please visit: hft.org.uk/carematters/.