Sophie Williams is the manager at Morley House, where she and her team support four young people, aged between 15 and 18, who all have learning disabilities and complex needs. Break provides a long term home and has become an extended family to them, giving them the best care it can. Sophie describes Morley House as “one big community” but admits that the Covid pandemic has made things difficult. Here Sophie shares an honest insight into life at Morley House and the effect of the last year...
"I have a teenage child and know how hard it would be if I had to send my really vulnerable child to live and be looked after by 20 or so strangers, but that is the decision that faces many truly loving parents of children with really complex needs. Our job is to do the absolute best job we can, working closely with their families to give them the support and love they need to grow and develop.
I have a highly skilled team who put in a huge amount of effort and are committed to our young people. Many of us have children of our own, families we care for, and we are all absolutely dedicated to our Break family who we look after.
Throughout the Covid pandemic, we have implemented extra cleaning, separate entrances and exits, limited visitors and a bubble rota. We have had to be really creative to ensure that family relationships can still be maintained, recognising and understanding their importance for our young people’s emotional wellbeing.
"It’s hard to explain to someone with autism and a learning disability that they can’t do what they normally like to do, such as swimming and the cinema. However, we responded by ensuring there was only minimal disruptions to routines, developed resources to help them understand what was happening and tried to make things as normal as possible.
Of course, it has been a challenge and really hard at times for everyone, but our young people are thriving.
One of the lads is now talking in proper sentences, which means he can tell us what he wants, saying “I would like a blackcurrant please” and using proper names. For years he would call me Sarah, but he recently said, “Tickle me please, Sophie” and it was wonderful.
One of our non-verbal young people has begun to Skype his mum every evening so she can watch him play and they can interact. He has responded really well to this, it has strengthened their relationship and given his mum reassurance that he is doing well. Another parent visits on a Sunday to see her son, while the other two are supported in visiting their family homes.
I can put my hand on my heart and say we have changed their lives.
"One thing that Covid really has enabled is real inclusion for our young people in the recruitment process, which is important as the Break team play a big part in their lives and are people they see every day. During a video interview in the first lockdown, one of our young people came into the room, started making notes and was signing to the candidate and giving his opinions. It was brilliant! Face to face interviews were too challenging before but now we ask candidates along to a virtual informal coffee with our young people.
We love the children we support, such as Hugo, aged 18, who came to live with us aged eight. I’ve known him for 10 years, and he can mostly be found in my office, and is now moving on from Break. Now he is 18, we are getting him ready for the next phase of his life. He is ready and has been really involved in the process. As he is non-verbal, we have provided him with lots of ideas for his new room and he has chosen the colour he wants, and we have provided lots of stories and opportunities for him to see where he will be living. Of course, we will stay in touch with him – how can you love a child for ten years and just say goodbye?" Read Hugo's story here.
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