My placement at Avenues
Jazzmin Robinson, trainee police officer, blogs about her placement at one of our residential services in Kent.
As part of my police officer training, I was given a placement at Avenues. I didn’t know what to expect as I hadn’t had experience in an environment like that. I was keen to understand and work with people with different needs and I was anxious and a little nervous as I might see something upsetting.
When I arrived, Penny Snell, the home manager, introduced me to Jane, who has a learning disability and dementia. Jane was very kind and funny. She asked me some questions about myself and repeated these throughout the day. I found Jane was difficult to understand at times as she sometimes mumbles but after a while and with some patience on my part, I started to understand what she was saying.
I also met Emma, who has a learning disability and epilepsy. Emma also has a physical disability as she has one leg shorter than the other. I found this upsetting at first but I quickly overcame it as I was constantly talking to Jane and Emma and they kept making me laugh. This took my mind off being nervous or upset and after about an hour I forgot about it.
One of the support workers and I went with Emma to the shops on Tonbridge High Street. Emma took her wheelchair as she struggles to walk long distances. Firstly we took her to get her feet pampered, which she enjoys doing regularly. Then we went with her to get some exercise books so she can draw. Whilst at the tills, I noticed that the sales assistant would only talk to the support worker and not to Emma. I found this slightly rude as Emma was the one buying the items.
Back at the house, I asked if anyone would like a tea or coffee and Emma and Jane did. At first I made their coffee too strong, and then too full and then I needed to put sugar in Emma’s. I noticed that because I kept getting their coffee wrong, they were getting frustrated with me. I felt a bit frustrated as I didn’t get the coffee right, and had misheard what they both wanted. At this point I asked a support worker for some help, who told me what to do. The reason this happened is because I wasn’t listening properly. This taught me that I need to be patient and listen properly as it will help me in the future.
On the second day I didn’t have anything planned because I was supposed to be going out with James but he didn’t want to go out. James has Downs Syndrome and doesn’t speak. He signs to communicate such as a thumb up for yes and down for no. I learned that he enjoys colouring and playing on his IPad.
Lucy, who has Downs Syndrome and dementia, was going out. Whilst getting ready in the house, she was refusing to take her medication and becoming frustrated with the support workers asking her to. While I was observing what was happening, I noticed that the staff weren’t pushing Lucy to take her tablets, they were remaining calm and patient. After ten minutes and leaving the medication for Lucy to take herself, she decided to take it. The staff praised her for doing this. I have learnt from this and I know to remain patient and calm if I am to come across a situation like this again.
I got talking to one of the support workers about the history of the people they support. All of them were in hospital from a very young age. I heard that some of them don’t have any family and hearing this was upsetting for me. I couldn’t understand why people had lost contact with their families. The support worker explained that in the 1940s-1960s many children with disabilities lived in hospitals because of the war and because there wasn’t support for families.
On one occasion a lady called Suzy wanted to use the toilet. The support worker helped her up and took her to the toilet. Whilst I was sitting with Jane and Emma, I heard shouting and crying coming from the toilet. I noticed one of the support workers went to get spare clothes. After ten minutes, Suzy and the support worker came out of the toilet, Suzy was very upset and was crying as she had accidentally wet herself. This was emotional for me as she was crying and I wanted to help. The support worker was very nice and empathised with Suzy and then tried to distract her by complimenting the dress she was wearing. This made Suzy smile as she enjoys being complimented. She soon stopped crying and calmed down.
I have learnt a lot from my placement with Avenues. I’ve learnt to listen carefully and about how to support people with a disability. I observed the support workers and the way that they work with each person; they treat people fairly and equally, according to their needs. For example, because Jane is in a wheelchair and she cannot move around she needs a lot of assistance, in comparison to James or Emma, who can do a lot more themselves.
This experience has taught me about how to support people with disabilities and I believe I can take everything I’ve learned to my role as a police officer and ensure I make the best decisions about how to support people. I really appreciated the time I spent at Avenues; I enjoyed spending time with the people they support, as it was such a friendly environment, where I was able to learn a lot that will help me in the future.
*Some names have been changed
26th January 2017