COVID-19 Sensory Service resources

It is so important that we work together, quickly to support people who are sight impaired, hard of hearing, Deaf or deafblind.

We are sharing the systems and resources we have developed in the hope that this is helpful to other sensory services and rehab workers.

We welcome feedback, advice and suggestions of content as this is work in progress and by no means perfect!

Risk assessments

As a team supporting people across Essex with sight, hearing and dual sensory loss, our priority has been to quickly risk assess everyone open to our team and on our waiting list. Our priority was to establish people’s immediate needs resulting from the lockdown, the existing support they have in place and contingencies should that support fail for any reason.

We quickly amended Essex County Council’s Risk Assessment document provided to us to make it suit our customer group and our staff. We worked through the document with the team over Skype, making sure as best as possible that we were all approaching it in the same way. The team contacted everyone on their open case list and on our waiting list. Communication was via telephone, email, text relay, SMS and via family members where communication methods such as deafblind manual or block mean we cannot directly talk to the person. We’ve written to the people that we have been unable to contact and continue trying to reach them to ensure they are ok.

Download our Risk Assessment document.

The aim was, during the discussion with the person or family member, to understand if someone relied on formal or informal support and to gently explore contingencies should that support become unavailable for any reason. For plan B’s, we first looked to local community resources such as family, friends, neighbours or support groups and voluntary organisations. We signposted to local and national support such as Essex Welfare Service (EWS) and made sure people had the contact details and ability to contact independently. Where significant risks were identified, we worked as a team to problem solve and link/refer people directly into required support services.

Green – someone who is independent or has a strong local network and no specific risks are identified.

Amber – some risk/s identified but contingencies found during the assessment and the risk therefore significantly reduced.

Red – Significant risk/s identified and no contingency or solution could be found during the assessment. In these cases (which have been few) we worked with Social Care teams, referring directly in where appropriate.

In all cases people are provided with our contact details and asked to contact us if anything changes.

These were all saved in separate Green, Amber and Red folders as the staff member and person’s name. Once completed, we began calling those on our list who we rated Amber but identified as needing a second follow-up contact. The intention is to stop Green turning Amber and Amber turning Red. Staff are asked to go with their gut feeling and return to completed assessments if they have any niggling doubts.

As soon as possible after the risk assessment, we will undertake telephone / video sensory assessments (where possible and appropriate) to prepare for a visit from our team. During this, we will continue to offer information, advice and guidance, signposting and onwards referrals, hints and tips, tech suggestions and arrange equipment where possible.

Supporting Loneliness and Isolation

This is a concern for those we support as social isolation takes its toll, as the usual services and support have had to withdraw. We have an existing strong partnership with six key voluntary organisations who make up our Essex Sensory Community and are working closely with them to support needs. Where they have furloughed staff they have maintained publicly funded posts to ensure befriender calls and contacts can take place. Each has adapted their way of working, for example from face-to-face to Skype calls with Deaf people.

We are not offering a regular telephone support service ourselves (apart from in very specific circumstances) because we are a small team and cannot guarantee all staff will remain well and at work and we don’t want to let people down. Our priority is to continue assessing new referrals as they come in.

Communicator Guides

We have used the same approach with those we support with Communicator Guides and are maintaining essential shopping services and companionship calls and contacts for any who cannot access other support provision locally.

Can you help us?

We would welcome feedback on how other LA’s and providers have managed this process to ensure the best possible support for those we work with and for. Please contact us by email with any thoughts and documents you are willing to share. Many thanks.

Links and resources specific to COVID responses

Please help us add to this list. Contact us with a link to a site you think should be added here. Thank you