Staff from a housing service in New Milton dedicated to supporting people with learning disabilities have launched a unique project to explain social distancing.

The team from Sanctuary Supported Living’s services in the town have been inspired by the film ‘Madagascar’ to help residents understand the COVID-19 crisis and demonstrate how to stay safe.

Using the catchphrase of the penguins in the film, “just smile and wave”, staff have developed a learning resource based on a ‘Smiley the penguin’ model as guidance for social distancing.

Everyone at the service has truly taken the story to heart, with the concept of Smiley teaching residents how to distance themselves from others while staying friendly, as well as providing opportunities to get involved in art initiatives and video making.

Alison Notman, local service manager and inventor of Smiley the penguin and the social distancing initiative, said: “Staff and residents alike have come to love Smiley and he is now a big part of the service, with a whole penguin family, a jigsaw and videos just some of the things we’ve created. He also helps us to distance safely on social occasions.

“Some of our residents are naturally outgoing and will greet people by hugging and touching them, so Smiley has really helped us to explain something that could have been very difficult for them. The project is really giving our residents choice and control in shaping their service.”

And Smiley isn’t the only project the residents are undertaking during lockdown. They’ve also been joining in with a pop up café called ‘Stoppins’ in the service’s garden, and dancing the evenings away through a socially distanced conga.

Alison added: “Our aim is to involve all the residents in deciding on activities and events – after all, this is their home, not just ‘a home’.”

It has been a very successful way to explain and implement social distancing measures in the care home.

For more information about Sanctuary Supported Living’s services for people with disabilities click here.

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