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Reporter Helen Johnson visits us for a day

Sale and Altrincham Advertiser reporter Helen Johnson visited us for the day because Stockdales is the paper’s charity of the year. Helen came to find out how The Advertiser’s appeal is helping is helping our service users.

Helen wrote this article about us:

Our readers have been generously supporting The Advertiser’s campaign to raise £60,000 for Stockdales. As we get closer to smashing the target, I’m paying a timely visit to the charity to see how the money raised by the campaign is benefitting the people who use its Life Skills service.

The Sale service supports people with a wide variety of needs, from those with mild learning difficulties who live independently, to people with the highest care need, who live at one of the Stockdales’ four residential homes.

It works tirelessly to make sure what’s on offer is ideally suited to each individual, whatever their needs may be. The focus is on what people CAN do. I meet with Life Skills service manager Alex Cox, who explains that users are in charge of their own budgets and choose to come here.

It’s an upsetting reality that, years ago, many people with disabilities might have ended up spending their time doing very little in day centres, missing out on the chance to do the kind of things many of us take for granted. It’s always been the Stockdales’ aim to give everyone the chance to experience life and enable people with disabilities to be at the heart of their communities.

Alex said, “We support a diverse range of people and it’s a person centred service, which means we put the people we support in control of it and ask them what they’d like to do. We engage with people and work out what’s best for them, it’s important to give people that experience of life.”

I learn that service users are able to shape their own sessions by giving feedback about they want to do, what works and what can be improved.

Alex added, “We want people to be involved, not just be passive consumers. It’s important to us that people aren’t underestimated and not to make any assumptions. We work towards providing minimal support because we want people to be as independent as possible.”

I’ll be joining two groups to get an idea about the kind of activities that go on every day. One group was due to go to the Peak District for a long walk, but the weather has put paid to the plans for the time being. Instead, it’s a walk around Dunham Massey in the snow, before heading to the bowling alley at the Trafford Centre for a session of fierce competition on the lanes.

Some group members unleash hidden talents and there’s no shortage of strikes and spares being scored as the action hots up. Other members need a little extra support to get the hang of it, but the supportive staff make sure everyone gets the most out of their experience, regardless of ability.

Back at the Stockdales base on Harboro Rd, I also get to visit an arts and crafts sessions. It’s one of a variety of different sessions that go on here  – ranging from computer classes, dance and drama, to music and cookery.

Every week, the staff, led by Jennifer Marsland, plan activities based on a different theme. This week’s inspiration is Burns Night. When I arrive everyone is tucking into haggis, as the sound of bagpipes plays in the background.

I spot a few familiar faces who I recognise from previous visits to Stockdales taking part in the session. I also meet other service users who live independently or with their families, and come along to Life Skills a few times a week, including Mary, who uses non-verbal communication.

Mary welcomes me into the group and shows me the glass painting she’s been doing, by gently holding my hand and giving me a reassuring “thumbs up”.

Staff have brought in tartans to show the group, along with other tactile materials in traditional Scottish colours. There are also special musical instruments and pieces of equipment, designed to provide stimulation, dotted around the room. Jennifer borrows some of the pieces from Delamere Toy Library, which stocks equipment suitable for people with learning difficulties, but I’m surprised to learn that others can cost between £100 and £300 to buy.

At the end of her session Mary and her support worker Steph fill in a form together, so she can give feedback about her experience. Mary chooses to rate the session as “great”, with another thumbs up. There’s no arguing with a recommendation like that.

Ends

We’d like to thank Helen for taking the time to come and visit Stockdales and for writing such a great article about our work.

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