Ten years ago Idris Ahmed was working in sales, now he leads Certitude’s award-winning project which supports Somali people to find homes and establish a life in Lambeth. Idris explains his unusual career journey:
“About ten years ago I left sales to work in the East End for a charity called the Queen Victoria Seaman’s Rest which provides accommodation for seafarers, both current and retired. Many of the Somalis who came to the UK after the Second World War were in the Navy – including my father –and there were a good number of Somali men who were supported by this organisation.”
“Around 2005 a friend of mine told me about a project Certitude was setting up specifically to help Somalis. At the outset the focus was on combating the misuse of a drug called Khat which is a leaf from Africa which you chew. Over time we realised that Somalis – many of whom were fleeing civil unrest in urgent circumstances – were arriving in London with very little personal belongings and their biggest problem was finding somewhere to live. This housing crisis is at the root of many other problems so the service shifted its emphasis onto finding homes.”
Certitude’s Somali Tenancy Support Service now assists 25 Somali people, at any one time, in Lambeth with a range of services designed to help them access the housing and benefits system. Idris explains:
“Somali people in London often have little or no English and no idea how to find somewhere to live. We can help them access the benefits system and find the right kind of accommodation – and advise them how to keep up with rents and stay in this accommodation. Somalis can be an isolated group and we have been able to successfully engage with the community directly – and crucially in their mother tongue.”
“This is a free service which offers a real lifeline for people and I am really proud of how we have been able to transform people’s lives. However there are over 2,000 Somalis living in Lambeth so there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Rabia’s Story – making a breakthrough
Rabia’s top tip “Adapt your behaviour to the other person and don’t give up too soon.”
Until recently, Zani, a young woman with Autism, had remained closed in and shut off from the other people in her house. After 12 months of intensive interaction Zani has made a significant breakthrough and is now happy to make eye contact, touch, laugh and play with her support worker Rabia. Zani is more content in her life and her family and friends are delighted to see how she has progressed.
Rabia is one of many Certitude support workers learning about “Creative Communication”. This is a method which encourages people to communicate in ways other than talking. She says the idea of emotionally engaging with someone without speech was a daunting prospect at first but that once she was trained in some of the techniques the results have been amazing.
Creative Communication, which includes Intensive Interaction, encourages the person trying to communicate to pick up clues from the person they are trying to communicate with. There are many techniques which can be applied from mimicking and mirroring to maintaining eye contact and touching. The training teaches individuals how to read the signs correctly and how to progress the communication to the next stage.
Certitude works with many people with complex learning disabilities who find it difficult to communicate using speech. This form of communication can be life changing for people in these circumstances and we are committed to training as many support workers as possible in these simple, yet incredibly effective, techniques.
Stephen’s top tip “Give volunteering a go!”
Stephen Rundell is an enthusiastic volunteer; he works in his local charity shop, provides admin support to the Kew Steam Museum, serves food at a homeless project and even turns his hand to a bit gardening. In fact, although Stephen enjoys all his work, it turns out that gardening is his real passion.
He discovered his green fingers when he joined a group run by Certitude called Breakaway in 2012. Breakaway takes volunteers to private gardens and parks all over west London to undertake a variety of gardening activities from planting and weeding to mowing lawns and clearing overgrown spaces. Occasionally they walk along the canal path to collect litter.
“Of all my volunteering I like doing gardening best,” explains Stephen via email. He has autism and prefers to communicate in writing. “I enjoy volunteering; I think it’s useful and I like working with my friends. I also like working in the local community.”
For more information on the Breakaway Volunteering project contact the Activity and Resource Centre on 020 8810 8111.
“If you have a learning disability and you know you are going into hospital, make sure you organise a Hospital Passport before you go in.”
“Fantastic and very happy,” is how John Keaveny describes how he feels about his work as a training consultant for Treat Me Right!
Treat Me Right! is a project run by Certitude to improve the experience for people with learning disabilities while they are in hospital. John is able to draw on his own hospital experience to help train medical staff thoughout Ealing Hospital.
John has Down’s Syndrome and few years ago he collapsed at home and was rushed into hospital with breathing difficulties. He remained in hospital for a total of four weeks and found the experience difficult and confusing.
He is not the only adult with a learning disability to find the hospital process a stressful one. Treat Me Right! was developed in response to Mencap’s Death by Indifference*report which investigated the deaths of six people in hospital because they had learning disabilities.
Now John regularly talks to groups of doctors, surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses, student nurses, midwives and junior doctors about how they can improve their treatment of people with learning disabilities.
As part of Treat Me Right! John works with Elsa and together they run up to four Learning Disability Awareness courses at the hospital each month. Elsa explains about the new procedures implemented by Treat Me Right! and then John describes his own experience in hospital. The medical staff can then ask both of them questions and get advice.
There are fifteen to twenty people in each group and they are often highly trained medical practitioners, but John is not intimidated by such an audience.
“I really enjoy standing up in front of people and talking – it doesn’t make me nervous at all. I like being part of a team. I think it’s important for doctors and nurses to have a better understanding of people with learning disabilities. My experience means I can tell people exactly how I felt. They can learn from that. I’m proud of what I do and I’m glad that I can help other people.”
The positive impact of John’s work is clear; in the last 12 months there hasn’t been a single complaint to Ealing hospital from anyone with a learning disability.
Paul is a son, a brother, an uncle and a friend. Paul is also a man who is often defined by the support he needs – and sometimes the amount this costs. Over the next couple of years we plan to learn with Paul about what personalisation really means and how easy it is for Paul to have more control over his life and the support that he needs and wants.
Paul’s latest film looks at how Paul’s life is starting to change as the personalisation agenda takes on real meaning.
Dionne is a mother of three who has spent the past 20 years coping with bipolar disorder. Dionne worked as a volunteer with Certitude’s Southside Partnership and we followed her journey as she prepared to return to paid employment.
Marianne has worked with adults who have learning disabilities for 18 years. Three years ago her work took on a whole new meaning when her third son, Alex was born with Down’s syndrome. We are following Marianne and Alex’s journey over the next couple of years to learn more about what it means to be part of social and health care systems from birth and what impact this has on growing up to be included, accepted and in control.
Marianne’s story – part three
Marianne has been experiencing review meetings from a different perspective – as a parent not a professional – with Alex’s first statement review meeting.
Marianne’s story – part two
Lots has happened to Alex and Marianne over the last few months. Alex has now turned 3 and has started pre-school. Catch up with their latest news in their new video.
Marianne’s story – part one
Continuing our Learning from Life theme we will be adding a series of One Page Stories reflecting on what’s happening within the organisation, the staff we work with and the people we support.
Ten years ago Idris Ahmed was working in sales, now he leads Certitude’s award-winning project which supports Somali people to find homes and establish a life in Lambeth. Idris explains his unusual career journey. Read Idris’s Story.
Laureta is a Certitude Volunteer. When things went very badly wrong in her previous job, Laureta thought she had ruined her chances of getting a decent position again. She is very happy that Certitude has given her a second chance.Read Laureta’s Story.
John has Down’s Syndrome and few years ago he collapsed at home and was rushed into hospital with breathing difficulties. He remained in hospital for a total of four weeks and found the experience difficult and confusing. Read John’s Story.
Stephen Rundell is an enthusiastic volunteer; he works in his local charity shop, provides admin support to the Kew Steam Museum, serves food at a homeless project and even turns his hand to a bit gardening. Read Stephen’s story.
Rabia is one of many Certitude support workers learning about “Creative Communication”. This is a method which encourages people to communicate in ways other than talking. She says the idea of emotionally engaging with someone without speech was a daunting prospect at first but that once she was trained in some of the techniques the results have been amazing. Read Rabia’s story.