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55. Farewell and thank you: My reflections as I depart from The Victoria and Stuart Project

Written by Faye Gardiner, the Dimensions project lead on The Victoria & Stuart Project.

As I finish my last day as project lead for Dimensions' involvement in The Victoria and Stuart project, I am filled with bittersweet emotions. This project, which has been a labour of dedication and passion for everyone involved so far, will hold a special place not only in my own career journey but also my heart.

Reflecting on the last 6 months of which I have been involved in the project, I realise it has been a journey of collaboration and excitement, but also with the unexpected twist and turns which we have found through completing research in social care.

Before trialling the toolkit within Dimensions, we had discussed as a team how data was to be collected and aimed to have participants trial the resources before Christmas. The practical element of implementation was a completely different challenge than we all expected, and it showed us just how stretched the current social care system is. Support Workers not only fed back that Christmas was not the correct time to discuss funeral plans, but also that there was a genuine lack of time for managers and workers to sit down and talk about it with the people they support.

However, almost every Support Worker I spoke to mentioned how impactful and supportive the resources are, especially regarding confidence to broach a conversation around end-of-life care planning. There was lots of conversation about how this was a neglected area of care that is rarely given the time it deserves. But still the question remained - is it always a lack of physical time or are Support Workers looking for the right time to discuss these topics? We know the latter is often mentioned but rarely true and therefore, work still needs to be done to help empower Support Workers to have these meaningful yet difficult conversations.

Through these challenges we learnt how to be flexible and adaptable to the needs of those who we were working with, listening not only to people with learning disabilities but the people who support them, and having the confidence to change direction and ultimately admitting when things don’t work as planned! I know that I have personally learnt that no matter how much you plan in theory, until you action this in real life, you never truly know how it will play out, but its how you adapt and learn from this that matters.

Throughout my time working on the project, I have been absolutely blown away by the passion, dedication, and patience of everyone I have had the pleasure of working with. From colleagues to participants, managers to those we support, together we have solved problems and celebrated triumphs, it has been a real pleasure to be a part of such an amazing team.

Although it's time for me to now step away from the project, I am immensely proud to have been a part of the process and contributed to sharing the amazing toolkit that has been created. The toolkit stands as testament to what you can achieve when you listen, work together, and keep the views and feedback of people with learning disabilities at the forefront of everything you do.

Finally, I’d like to extend my thanks once again to each and every person I have had the pleasure of working with or meeting through this role. Your support, passion, knowledge, and can-do attitudes have been the driving force behind the project’s successes, and I am grateful to have worked alongside such amazing individuals.

As I take the lessons learnt and memories shared with me onto my future work, I truly hope the outcomes of this project continue to impact and support people with learning disabilities to have a choice surrounding end of life planning and have their voices heard, exactly how this project was designed to - and I have every faith!


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