Community communication: Case study
The Ken Boyce Centre (KBC) is a day activity service for adults with autism and learning disabilities in Footscray near Sidcup. We take a look at how the KBC – part of Choice Support, a social care charity providing support to people with learning difficulties, mental health needs and autism – has coped during the COVID-19 outbreak and maintained communication with their community.
The global pandemic has impacted on all our lives in many significant ways, not least how Ken Boyce have adapted their valuable service during lockdown and despite having to close access to the centre they continued communicating with people they support and staying in close contact remained their top priority.
Kelly Stedman, Team Leader says,
“We usually run lots of different activities within the centre, like computer skills, gardening, massage and a recycling project. We also run a popular shop, cook and eat session. But, most of our activities take place out in the community, like rambling, swimming, hydrotherapy, cycling and bowling.”
She continues, “We have some very good sports teams. We’ve played cricket at Lord’s cricket ground and our football team, Bexley Lions, plays in the South London Special League. When the weather is good, we go fishing. We like to get creative too. We have put on performances like our Singing and Signing show and we walked down the catwalk like models at our fashion show.”
Community Communication: Virtual Engagement
COVID-19 will have a long-lasting impact on society at large and has already changed the way we interact with each other. Organisations such as KBC had to adapt very quickly so that they could continue supporting vulnerable young people and maintain a high quality of service in their community.
Due to the nature of the care and communication people receive at Ken Boyce, it was vitally important that the staff remain in close contact with the people they support and reach out to them as much as they possibly could during lockdown.
They did this in numerous ways, creating interactive sessions using technology that included multiple uploads each day on their Facebook page, weekly activity books and phone calls with them to keep spirits up throughout lockdown – all of which proved invaluable and had a positive impact on the users during a very confusing time.
The aim was to keep the people they support engaged and help them remain part of the KBC family so day in and day out, the staff at the day centre would put their all into coming up with new online and interactive ideas to ensure the were delivering the best community communication. This included activities such as game time, get crafty, learn to draw, bake offs, gardening classes, videos featuring familiar mascots and more. They also used other social media platforms such as TikTok regularly to communicate with people they support, coming up with inventive and fun videos to make them smile and give people something to look forward to each day. This was a particularly important channel for them as it helped the people feel like they were not forgotten and could still participate in activities at home that they would usually do (such as dancing) at the centre.
The staff even went as far as to decorate their entire minibus for Easter and do a personal socially distanced visit to each person while one member of staff was dressed in a mascot, which made everyone smile. Even though staff were not able to spend long with each person they still brightened up their day.
We spoke to Karen who is a member of staff at the Ken Boyce Centre, and asked her why the staff put in so much effort in maintaining close communication with their service users:
“We have made sure throughout lockdown to communicate with the people who use KBC and with their parents and carers with phone calls, zoom sessions, Facebook and socially distanced home visits. To make sure people know we are still here for them during this confusing time and to help them keep learning and laughing but to also keep emphasising why they are not at the centre. As long as they are happy, so are we.”
The feedback that the staff have received has been incredible with parents and carers saying how they have gone over and beyond, with the people the service supports really benefiting from the community communication delivered through virtual events, sessions and videos they created on a daily basis to keep everyone entertained and engaged.
Adapting to the new normal, over the last few weeks, KBC has slowly been re-opening with a reduced number of people allowed in every day while following government guidelines and social distancing rules. They currently have 2-4 people returning to the service Monday to Friday from 10am to 2.30pm compared to a normal capacity of 25-30 people Monday to Friday 9am to 4.00pm.
Although the centre may be slowly re-opening, they still have many vulnerable people at home relying on the daily online activities, meaning the staff must alternate who films the videos and who does activities with the people in the centre. Each person in the centre that day has their own allocated space and equipment that is then cleaned and sanitised at the end of each day. It’s a lot of additional work for the staff to balance in order to keep their home users and centre users happy but is work that they feel is worth it in order to maintain a strong bond with their community.
Community Commnication: Learnings
There is a lot that we can learn from what the KBC staff have done for people they support and how important maintaining communication with your community is. Finding the right channel, the right tone and the right topics of interest on which to communicate will engage and strengthen your communities. By listening to what people want and need and delivering this – whether it’s your local community, your business community or your community of customers – taking the time to nurture and show you care and value them really does matter and can make all the difference.
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Do you need support in managing your virtual or social communities? Or don’t now where to start in building a new customer community? We can help. Why not arrange a free consultation call with us to discuss your needs.