A day in the life of…Sally Dunster, Sensory Specialist Practitioner

Sally joined ECL in January 2023 and works within our Sensory Impairment Service which supports people who have a sight loss, hearing loss or combined sight and hearing loss, to maintain independence and dignity in every aspect of daily life.
A day in the life of…Sally Dunster, Sensory Specialist Practitioner

Here she tells us a bit more about the role of a Sensory Specialist Practitioner:

“The Sensory Specialist Practitioners are the customers first point of face-to-face contact with ECL following referral into the service. Initially, our Sensory Liaison Officers will receive all of the new referrals into the service, and they will undertake an assessment for each customer via whichever method is best for the person. In this assessment they will also review any risks and triage their needs to see how we can best support them. This could be a referral into the team for a Sensory Specialist Practitioner or Rehab worker to arrange a visit. Or it could be a referral for one to one support, or the training team if it is a professional calling in.

Once we are allocated work by our Local Business Manager, we then check the details we have about that customer from the initial assessment and research the support that may be relevant to them and what services are locally available, before contacting them to make an appointment to meet for an assessment. We strive to make sure that we see every customer within two weeks of being allocated to us by the Liaison Officers, a target we have not failed as of yet.

Our assessment is a face-to-face appointment where we go through every aspect of their life with them, how their sight and hearing impacts their daily life, and in turn also those family members who may also be affected. Then we look at how we can support them with these barriers. This could be anything from the provision of specialist equipment, to signposting them to specialist services and support groups.

Our assessment is holistic and is person-centred depending on whether the customer has a visual or a hearing impairment or if they are deafblind. We look at everything in their homes and lives to determine what their support needs are. For example, can they do their shopping, have they got family around to support them, can they manage their personal care, what is their mobility like, and do they need any equipment or technology to help make life easier?

“Lots of outcomes can result from our assessment. We can offer advice on changes they can make to help them in the home and can provide and install some of the more basic equipment and apps there and then for them, such as symbol canes, ‘bump ons’ and liquid level indicators. For anything more complex, we place an order for equipment from the Essex County Council supplier. For more complex cases or for where Visual Impairment Rehabilitation is needed we refer on to our Rehabilitation team and other third parties to provide further support. This could include Communicator Guide services, Essex Adult Social Care, the RNIB, and the Essex Wellbeing Service for help with benefits, as well as signposting to other local charities and organisations that can support them.

“The ultimate priority for me is keeping people safe and independent. When I go into a customer’s home to do an assessment the first thing I do is work out what the current safety risks that need to be addressed are and what support does this person need. It’s shocking how many people are living without accessible safety items like smoke alarms!

“At the end of the visit we always ensure that the customer has a summary of what was discussed in the visit as well as my contact details so that if they have any further questions or concerns they are able to contact me. I then complete the necessary paperwork such as relevant data sheets and information sharing consents and referral forms.

What Sally loves most about her job:

“No two visits are the same and I love that! What I enjoy the most is meeting different people and helping them. It’s nice to be able to make a difference to people’s lives. I like knowing that I’ve empowered them and ensured that they are safe in their homes. I love the variation of it too, every day is different.”

Sally’s advice to anyone looking to take on a sensory support role:

“Just go for it. The job satisfaction you will get helping people with sight, hearing or dual sensory loss is just fantastic and the training and support that you receive from ECL is second to none. The sensory team are all so great, there’s always someone to go to with questions or for advice - everyone is helpful and supportive.”

How Sally got into the role:

“I’ve always had an interest in helping people that have difficulty with communication. I had previously worked for ECL in their Day Opportunities service a long time ago, and during my time there I was able to gain a teacher training licence from Inclusive Communication Essex. Another colleague and I trained other ECL staff in communication tools and methods for people with sensory impairments and we also ran sign language groups in the day centres.

After that I did have a change of career, where I ran my own childminding business. I recently decided to make a change and was looking for a new opportunity and saw the ECL advert for a Sensory Specialist Practitioner. It was the first advert I saw when began looking for jobs online, so it was like it was meant to be!”

For more information on ECL’s Sensory Service visit ecl.org/services/sensory-service

If you are interested in a role within ECL’s Sensory Support Team visit our recruitment page ecl.org/careers

Find out more about our Sensory Service...

Overview of service