VALUES update – Settling in to the new normal

Mikaela, manager of VAL's learning disabilities service VALUES talks about coming back to in person services and how we have had to adjust and learn.

Lots of new clients

VALUES has been constantly growing since its conception in 1998, with a steady flow of new clients joining. The pandemic was the first time that our annual number of clients has decreased. However since being back to in-person services we have seen a rapid increase in new clients. Every year we have an influx of people who have left or partly-left education and are looking for the next chapter in their lives. Over the pandemic, those people were all stuck at home, creating a back log of new starters for us. There was also people who just wanted a change or weren’t happy with their current service who were looking to come to VALUES. So we have all been very busy settling in lots of new friends to their new sessions.

Staff shortages

During the unsettled period where we were a virtual service and then with some clients choosing not to come straight back to in-person services, we did not need as many staff members, so we did not replace people who left due to normal turnover. With the influx of new clients, and steady return of existing clients, we quickly found ourselves without enough staff. With a record number of job vacancies currently available, we have not seen the usual number of applicants. However, we are pleased say that we have no appointed some fantastic people to all posts. This includes one of our Kickstart Trainee Support Workers who successfully applied for a Support Worker role at the end of her placement.

Loss of clients

Sadly over the last two years 3 of our clients have lost their lives, 2 of which to COVID-19. This has had a big impact on all the clients and staff. Staff have had to act as councillors to the people with a learning disability that we support who have struggled to understand the losses. We know we will pull through together.

New ideas, like animation!

At VALUES we love to think of new sessions to offer our clients. We want to be able to offer all social and leisure activities as well as volunteering and learning activities. Our newest session, planned with the help of the people with a learning disability who attend, is our stop-motion animation group who have been producing some marvellous mini-animations.

Celebrating diversity

Whether it’s Christmas or Eid, Diwali or Halloween we love an excuse for a celebration. Most recently we celebrated Black History Month with an African banquet made by some of the staff and shared by clients and staff alike. Some people dressed in African clothes or just in bright colours. For many it was a chance to try some new foods for the first time.

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Mikaela Paterson

Mikaela Paterson is a Team Manager for VAL's VALUES Learning Disability Support project. Mikaela can be found on Twitter at @PatersonMikaela or contacted via