Jennyruth Workshops Responds to Covid-19
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak many organisations, businesses and charities have been forced to either close down completely or devise new ways of working and innovative ways of keeping going.
Jennyruth Workshops exists to meets the needs of 28 adult workers through a variety of creative activities that offer individuals with learning disabilities opportunities to produce a wide range of high quality products that are sold to customers at craft fairs and other locations around the district. The workshops provide a safe, peaceful working environment in which our workers feel secure, appreciated and confident. The Coronavirus threatened the very existence of Jennyruth Workshops and many other similar charities around North Yorkshire.
In a very short space of time the staff devised systems that enabled the work of the charity to continue, albeit remotely, while still meeting the needs of the workers. Staff continue to come into the workshops on a rota basis, three or four at a time, using the range of accommodation available to work safely on a self-isolating basis. Working one to a room the staff work hard to devise products and prepare basic materials. The workers can collect a pack of materials from a crate outside the building that provides them with paints, brushes and products to decorate. When they have finished their work they place their pack in a ‘Return Crate’ and collect another one from the ‘Out Crate.’
The system is simplicity itself and is working very well. We have lots of photos of work being done in homes around the area, with proud workers displaying finished products on our Facebook pages. A few weeks ago no-one had even heard of Zoom meetings but these have proved very useful in our endeavours to keep in touch with the workers and for them to be in contact with staff, trustees and each other.
Zoom meetings have been provided for workers and staff to keep in touch with each other and share their experiences of working away from the workshops. We have also been fortunate to offer a variety of other online activities such as storytelling, quizzes and other group activities. A very carefully structured weekly timetable ensures that the workers are provided with a variety of opportunities, mirroring what would normally be on offer at the workshops, but also adding new activities like wellbeing, Reading Time and weekly competitions. Smaller groups have been offered Zoom sessions provided by staff on such things as photography, creativity, Makaton and a T-shirt design competition. It looks like the sky’s the limit and more ideas are being planned daily. Zoom is also being used for staff meetings and for Trustees. We also have a private Facebook page for staff, workers, trustees and volunteers. Staff frequently keep in touch on a regular, individual basis with workers to ensure that their concerns and achievements are shared on a confidential basis.
We are receiving a great deal of positive feedback from families, carers and workers. The online work is recognised as making a significant contribution to the mental health of workers, volunteers and staff. Everyone is being kept very busy, involved and engaged and this is generally very much appreciated.
A Colleague at North Yorkshire County Council wrote to our Chief Officer, Nicky Newell:
“I would like to thank you and all the workshop staff and volunteers for setting up these schedules and keeping workers engaged and maintaining a working routine. Also for the parents and carers who are doing a fantastic job supporting individuals to have their needs met and taking part in the work that is required. Many thanks, James.”
A parent of one of our workers emailed:
“Could I just say how thrilled Alexandra is to be in touch with everyone via the amazing new virtual timetable you have put in place!! She is just beside herself with excitement and enthusiasm in connection with all the activities and groups taking place. A huge thank you from me too - I am in awe of yourself and all the other staff and volunteers who have facilitated this lifeline for Alexandra and her co-workers! Anne-Louise”
Jennyruth are now sharing some of their online resources via the website. The aim is to share the Jennyruth joy and to help parents/carers who are working hard to keep everyone engaged, and other providers who have also had to adapt due to the circumstances. The wellbeing of workers, staff and volunteers is paramount and so much has been done, and continues to be done, to lift the spirits of the Jennyruth family and the wider community.
Due to the circumstances and many events being cancelled, leading to a significant drop in sales, the team at Jennyruth Workshops has worked hard to move sales online and we now have an exciting new online shop.
Jennyruth Workshops was the wonderful vision and creation of Barrie Evason and his wife Sue. Sadly, Barrie died on 29th February, but we know that he would have been very proud of the way the staff, volunteers and workers at Jennyruth are coping.
If you would like to support the work of Jennyruth Workshops by making a donation, you can do so via
the donate button above.
Andrew Burns, Trustee 14th May 2020