Good practice - Cedar Foundation - Inclusion Works – Finding Solutions in Challenging Times

The Cedar Foundation, Northern Ireland/United Kingdom “Inclusion Works – Finding Solutions in Challenging Times”

Summary information on the organisation

The Cedar Foundation has operated since 1941. With about 500 staff members, it provides a range of services that enable people with disabilities to get the most out of life and to be fully included in their communities. Services are centred around the individual needs of each person and are delivered throughout Northern Ireland.

 Summary information about the programme

The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown In March 2020, led to concerns about the health and wellbeing of Cedar’s service users, particularly those who were clinically extremely vulnerable, socially isolated, those who needed structure and routine or those who did not have the skills and resources to engage with services remotely. We were keen to find ways to support participants to continue to progress with their employability and inclusion goals, but also to address new anxieties regarding the impact of the pandemic, lockdown and post lockdown by having a clear understanding of what this meant for them and building their resilience to cope. We did this by maintaining continuity of service while providing meaningful support for participants to:

  • understand the government restrictions for COVID-19 and personal responsibility
  • prepare for re-entry to our community as a result of COVID-19 post-lockdown;
  • maintain health and wellbeing:
  • identify ways to combat loneliness and isolation during lockdown;
  • build personal resilience through regular remote keyworker contact and trying out new skills;
  • achieve accreditation for this work.

As many of the Inclusion Works participants agreed personal training plan goals of achieving qualifications in work skills and/or life & living skills, we felt that this approach would provide a structured yet flexible platform to continue service delivery to best meet participants’ needs when face-to-face service delivery was not possible. We re-focused the evidence requirements so that the learning outcomes were met by developing an understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, considering personal responsibilities during this time and trying out new skills. 

Co-produced Personal Training Plans continued to be central to participants’ journey, with COVID-19 specific accredited training goals providing a framework of structure and routine when community activity was not possible. Participants were supported to ‘attend’ in the way most appropriate to them (training on Zoom, WhatsApp, hard copies sent by post, etc) and where required, digital resources were purchased or loaned to facilitate remote learning.

Applying flexible and innovative approaches to service delivery through the pandemic and focusing on the issues that mattered to participants during this time of uncertainty enabled the Inclusion Works team to be truly responsive to participants needs in a way that maintained continuity of service, with a focus on goal setting and achievement, resulting in many participants learning new skills and trying new activities.