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Centre 81 is back in action . . . with bubbles.

Posted on August 24, 2020

Centre 81, skills and activities centre, in Great Yarmouth reopened on Monday (Aug 24) after being closed for 22 weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, during which many members were shielded in their homes.  Staff kept in touch with members via weekly telephone calls and supported those who were shielded or self-isolated with shopping and community based activities.

The charity has put stringent safety and hygiene measures in place to enable people to return and created three discreet areas, known as bubbles, to protect members and staff from potential cross infection between the bubbles. The number of members attending each day has also been limited.  “We can’t say things are back to normal, far from it, but it’s fantastic to see members and staff back with us in a safe environment,” said Diana Staines, chief executive.

Lynne Judd, a facilitator at the Centre, said: “I was so excited at reopening that I couldn’t sleep last night. It’s amazing to be back.”

The centre in Tar Works Road operates from Monday to Friday and usually accommodates about 30 members a day, many of whom go off during the day on one of Centre 81’s mini buses to enjoy activities in the wider community. The new layout of the centre means that a maximum of 15 members can be welcomed each day, five in each bubble. But there are no trips out for the time being.

Member Linda Pike, who spent much of the first morning doing craft work, said she was pleased to be back. “I’ve really missed Centre 81 and the people here,” she said. “Being away has been quite hard.”

Richard Jex, who normally attends the centre five days a week, said being back would provide some respite for his wife Mary, his main carer. He was looking forward to working on the centre’s model railway layout. “I think I might start again on it,” he said.

Converting Centre 81 to provide a safe environment has been costly. Ms Staines said: “We’ve had to provide separate facilities for each bubble, including sanitising stations, masks, signage, fridges and accessible toilets to ensure that members and staff can operate independently in their own areas. We have an effective one-way system throughout the site to make sure people aren’t bumping into one another and have imposed strict limits on the number of people in admin rooms.

“It’s not ideal but we have found a way of working that enables members to return to enjoy one another’s company and give their carers a much needed break.   “The awful situation we have found ourselves in as a result of Covid-19 makes it more important than ever for us to find a new home, with the space we need to operate more effectively.  I’m afraid social distancing is going to be with us for some time so we must ensure that we can continue to offer our services safely for years to come.”

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