The Chilterns : Stars in our eyes!

The Chiltern’s manager Denise Banks nominated three members of staff for this year’s Kent Learning Disability Partnership Awards in the ‘Helping people stay healthy award’ category. Although we didn’t win this time, we wanted to highlight the outstanding work of this trio as, regardless of the awards result, they’re all stars in our eyes. Here’s the full nomination:

Helping people stay healthy award

Nominating: Tammy Stephens, Jordan Cowburn and Jake Reading

I’d like to nominate three individuals who work at The Chilterns who, via a team approach, have taken the initiative to design and implement an outstanding healthy living and eating programme for the people we support.

The Chilterns supports individuals with LD and complex needs, including mental health issues: many of whom have higher acuity or historical forensic presentations and are ready to step down from secure environments.

Many of the people we support at The Chilterns are on anti-psychotic medication, one of the recognised side effects of which is weight gain. In an effort to help address this issue, Tammy, Jordan and Jake have worked together to introduce a number of complementary initiatives that are helping to deliver positive outcomes: these include a cookery school, food hygiene course, Food Champion / healthy eating programme, Tai Chi classes, weekly walking group and participation in sporting activities and events (more information on each of these initiatives included on the next page).

This programme is not only helping to bring lasting and positive results in terms of independent health benefits but also improving life skills in terms of planning, budgeting and the ability to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Indeed, these initiatives – alongside psychology input, voluntary work and other community-based activities – have just this year prepared and supported a move for two of our individuals into independent living in a community setting with much less intensive staff support.

The healthy living and eating programme also fully supports Optima Care’s Shine model of therapeutic care. This utilises the 4-step approach of My Shared Pathway (Where am I now? Where do I want to be? How do I get there? How will I know I’ve achieved?) and in addition takes into account the provider’s unique MDT focus within a community setting. It places the individual firmly at the centre, with pathways tailored to the individual needs, goals and aspirations of the people we support.

Cookery School

Tammy designed and launched the cookery school with the aim of enabling the people we support to plan meals, budget and prepare healthy food, whilst taking safety into account. It complements The Chilterns’ Healthy Eating Group, led by Jordan (more of which below), which works in partnership with local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to promote healthy lifestyles and choices.

The school offers tailored programmes according to the level of support required by individuals. Each programme includes bespoke lesson plans, recipe sheets and step-by-step processes: starting with making snacks, for those who require a high level of support, to budgeting, planning, shopping and cooking with minimum or no support for more able individuals.

In addition, Tammy has ensured that other staff and support workers at The Chilterns are encouraged to get involved and ensure consistency by logging updates in individuals’ progress books.

During the Stage 1 programme, the following goals were achieved:

  • Food hygiene
  • Health and Safety in the kitchen
  • Hand washing technique & the consequences of not washing
  • Meal planning & healthy eating choices
  • Following recipes

This knowledge and understanding was tested both practically and also via Food Quizzes.

The success of all Level 1 participants was celebrated recently with a certificate presentation by Optima Care’s Chief Operating Officer.

The Level 1 programme has proven so successful that Tammy is now gearing up for Level 2: this next stage assumes that the people we support are now able to plan and prepare their own food without any direct involvement from a staff member, however staff do provide support if needed. Individuals take the lead on doing their own food shopping on a £3 a day budget.

Food Champion Programme

Jordan volunteered to take part in a 2-day training course on how to put the theory of healthy eating into practice, entitled the Food Champion Programme and offered by Kent Community Health. It looks at basic nutrition but, perhaps more importantly, the skills needed to encourage the people we support to improve their eating habits, as well as specialist support in putting the theory into practice. This is followed by a 12-month programme of mentoring by a member of the nutrition team at Kent Community Health.

Jordan took the initiative last year to launch a Healthy Eating Group at The Chilterns and this works in conjunction with the Cookery School. The focus is on making healthy choices and Jordan leads on regular practical sessions such as comparing branded and non-branded foods (taste testing) and learning about why non-fizzy drinks are much better for you than fizzy drinks.

Tai Chi

Recognising the benefits that Tai Chi can bring in terms of reducing stress and general improvements in quality of life, Jordan and Jake designed and organised weekly Tai Chi classes for the people we support, drawing in advice and input from Optima Care’s Clinical Psychologist Dr Heleen Malherbe. The classes are well attended and the response to them has been really positive.

Weekly walking group

Jordan also takes a weekly walking group (Health Walks – Kent Community Health). He and Jake also encourage participation in sports clubs and organised events such as Race4Life and Man on the Run.

Volunteer gardeners

Jake works closely with the people we support on volunteering projects, with a view to encouraging healthy lifestyles. A partnership project was recently established with a local council, which sees our individuals helping to maintain seafront gardens. Jake has also taken a group of volunteers regularly to Garden Gate, a community garden project and independent charity in Kent, where the people we support get involved in growing their own fruit, vegetables and flowers. Garden Gate’s goal is “to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of people experiencing social exclusion through mental ill health and / or learning disability living in Thanet.”

The experience gained at Garden Gate led to the volunteers developing an allotment in The Chilterns’ garden.