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Enterprise teams keep people connected through lockdown

Across Bristol, South Gloucestershire, and North Somerset, Brandon has a number of social enterprises, including cafes, potteries, and a farm. They offer people with learning disabilities and autism, opportunities to gain work skills, vocational training, and paid employment.

Elm Tree Farm cattleFollowing government lockdown guidance, these enterprises have had to stop supported sessions, which not only impacts the enterprise itself, but also the people who we support there.

During the closures, a small staff team has continued to manage essential tasks, such as caring for the animals at Elm Tree Farm, site maintenance, and seasonal tasks. However, the team also recognised that it was vitally important to keep in touch with the people they support, and make sure they remain connected.

The trainees and supported employees are proud of their jobs and enjoy their work. Amongst other benefits, the routine and social contact that comes with it, is extremely important to their wellbeing.

Above and beyond

Initially, the team set up a schedule for making regular telephone contact with each person, but it soon became clear that people needed to feel engaged and part of something.

Scott was happy to receive his ceramic kitPooling their creativity, the team came up with ideas for a series of fun, home-based activities.

Alex, project leader at Enterprise Packaging, encouraged everyone to get involved with various puzzles and quizzes. The team has been sending regular newsletters and engaging with people we support on social media. Jenny, from the Cafe team, set up a WhatsApp group for people to share recipes, photos, activities, craft ideas, and have live chats.

There was even a musical treat in store! Offering some light entertainment, support worker Peter, recorded and shared a super video of himself, playing guitar and singing his version of 'Three Little Birds'.

Reflecting on recent months, Alex told us: "The team seem to really enjoy the activities, and it keeps them feeling part of the enterprise while they are at home, which I think is important."

Doorstep visits

Lisa delivers eggs to TomSome team members have been out visiting people in person, at home. Delivering food parcels made up of produce from the Farm, project leader Lisa, made Tom's day when she popped in with some eggs and they went for a short, socially-distanced stroll and chitchat.

"It was lovely to visit Tom. When he comes to the Farm, we chat about TV programmes we like so we had loads to catch up on. We went for a walk around the block and Tom showed me that he can see the Purdown Tower from near his house. This is very close to the Farm, so it reminds him of being here, which has been cheering him up during lockdown."

The Splinters woodwork team made up kits with all the essential components to craft a bird feeder and encouraged people to get involved with BBC Big Garden Birdwatch, and the pottery team delivered paint your own ceramics kits so the keen bunch of potters could get their creative juices flowing. Scott's smile shows how happy he was to receive one of the kits, and Will told us it was a "nice surprise".

Commitment and creativity

To break the cycle of loneliness and help promote wellbeing, the team has gone above and beyond in their commitment and creativity. The heartwarming feedback from the people we support has helped lift the whole team.

Sometimes, it's the small gestures that mean the most. Just being kind and showing someone that you care, can truly brighten their day.

Join our team

If you have the compassion and commitment to provide great support like this, visit the jobs section and browse our current vacancies.

*Some names have been changed to protect identity