Community development in the face of the pandemic.

Nighat has worked as Ethnic Minorities Development Worker for over 15 years. She recalled how when she started out, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead were only 1 of 3 boroughs across the country that had invested in an ethnic minority lead for Learning Disability Services. For many years now Nighat has built up trusted working relationships with local families, who access our services. This work has paved the way for her to have some difficult conversations in recent months, as well as providing invaluable support at a time of crisis.

Nighat’s role is to support family carers from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Around 75% of the families she works with have a relative with learning disabilities.

Prior to the pandemic her job entailed a lot of group work. She ran carers support drop-ins and organised educational and wellbeing activities. Anything from yoga classes to community safety sessions and cookery classes to Basic English courses.

Since March last year, her role has shifted to providing telephone-based support. She carries out daily welfare check-in calls, and much of her time is spent offering emotional support and signposting. She has also been helping families practically, with a range of tasks, including shopping and cooking. She said “for families who were isolating or struggling, I would arrange for food deliveries and on occasions I would cook meals myself and leave them on the family’s doorstep.”

Nighat talked about some of the challenges “At the start, we had people not understanding how serious Covid was, and still mixing families and there were other people who were too afraid to go out. My focus has been on education and awareness raising, as well as tackling some of the misinformation about the virus.”

Nighat has been working with community leaders and community groups, to help ensure people have access to information, advice and support. She said “members of the mosque and gurdwara in Slough, have been so helpful and supportive.”

Sadly, during the second wave Nighat is finding that more and more of her network have experienced the loss of a family member. She said “I am working with people who have lost someone to Covid. They are trying to deal with this grief in addition to their caring responsibilities, which in itself is a 24-7 task. It is important, that they have someone they can talk to.

“I have been able to provide that listening ear and a person they can offload to”

Another approach Nighat is taking is to support community members to take up the offer of the vaccine and dispel any myths. She said “Since I’ve had the vaccine a lot of people ask me if it’s halal and vegetarian. I help correct any false information they may have picked up about the vaccine. I spend time explaining to them why it’s important, especially the older generation where the language is a big barrier.”

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