Earlier this month, we were asked by the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) to join an interview panel to recruit for the new Head of Programme Delivery (Learning Disability and Autism) for the South East Transforming Care programme

On Thursday 19th March, Stuart, Sammy and Lis travelled to Tonbridge for the interviews to add the voices and opinions of people with lived experience of autism and learning difficulty to the panel.  Current Head of Programme Delivery, Susan Storrer, is retiring and she was there interviewing for her successor.  The interviews were held during the initial response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.  At this point, people were working from home where they could and avoiding unnecessary social contact.  This meant that the interviews were conducted mostly by video link.   

"The offices were empty and we could keep a good distance between us. There were handwashing facilities and anti bacterial hand gel.  They went to a lot of trouble to find us food for lunch as the shops were empty. It was a great atmosphere" - Lis Clayson, Supporter, Care and Treatment Reviews

Stuart, Sammy and Lis looked up the information on the role to make sure we all knew what we needed to assess interviewees for. We discussed this in the car on the way to the interviews and Sammy and Stuart decided on a question each. Our questions were added to the interview pack when we got there.  Sammy and Stuart asked some really probing questions and the whole panel worked really well together.

"How would you make sure people with lived experience and their families are involved in ensuring all local services make reasonable adjustments for people with learning disabilities, autism or both when they need it?" - Sammy, to interviewees

"How would you make sure that people with learning difficulties and or autism are included in the community?" - Stuart, to interviewees

Being part of the interviews gave us the opportunity to talk to Susan about how we are finding being involved in the Care and Treatment Reviews (CTRs).  As the video link for the interviews had worked so well, Susan asked us how we felt about doing CTRs by video link.  We  were confident in our ability to do this and all agreed that we think the reviews are more important than ever while people are facing greater isolation in secure care due to social distancing.   Over the past week or so, our Care and Treatment Reviews team of Experts by Experience and Supporters, along with the rest of bemix, has trained on how to use video conferencing so that we can work virtually and remotely.  We are looking forward to continuing being involved in Care and Treatment Reviews in this way so that we can make sure that people are getting the care, treatment and support that they need.

The situation has highlighted several things:

 - We can, and should be, more creative when it comes to supporting and connecting with each other.
 - Video calls and reviews work well and can be preferable for some people.  Our "normal" ways of working don't always work well for everyone.
 - People with learning difficulties and/or autism are adaptable and able to learn new skills and ways of communicating - don't doubt us!
 - We need more options for keeping in touch with people and providing those connections.
What have you learned so far from the coronavirus outbreak?  How will you use the experience and learning to make your work better for everyone?