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abilities and skill sets, Style Acre offered Sarah additional training with Thrive ( completing two of their Social and Therapeutic Horticulture courses. Sarah went on to specialise in running garden based activities in partnership with Sustainable Wantage and Wantage Day Service at Oxfordshire County Council’s Charlton Centre.
Sarah has taken the lead for Style Acre in this partnership and manages the activities that Style Acre offer at the garden, she works with service­users who have learning disabilities and/or autism gently directing and encouraging them to get involved with the planning, design and management of tasks at the garden. Working with Ray – who is severely autistic to identify jobs that need to be done. Sarah writes: Our typical day starts around 9am Sarah collects Ray from his Style Acre ‘supported living’ home, then driving to the garden, planning out the work in the garden both verbally and in writing. “Talking mats really help me to communicate ideas to Ray, he loves writing lists whether they are plans for the garden, lists of seeds or lists of tasks, Ray also helps with a huge variety of tasks such as potting up, turning the compost, sowing seeds and harvesting produce”. The day ends around 3.15pm when Ray cleans the tools he’s been using and picks some salad to share with his housemates, then its back home.
“Service­users who visit and interact with the garden ­ learn and adapt ­ often there’s a change in behaviour. It’s a place where they can concentrate on other things, focus, gain confidence, have physical exercise and fresh air, experience nature and through their endeavours watch something grow, flower and fruit – it’s very rewarding and they accomplish something meaningful. Peter who absolutely adores sunflowers ­ has a special area in the garden, just for growing his sunflowers!
The fruits and vegetables grown in the garden are used in the Style Acre Tea Room in Blewbury. The tearoom has been a great success, offering a high­quality and friendly meeting and eating­place. It’s one of Style Acre’s social enterprises, enabling the people they support to gain work experience, gain confidence and develop skills.
Working in the garden is a team effort ­ the social aspect is really important ­ everyone gains ­ the wellbeing of others is a powerful incentive to get involved. Sarah works closely
with Olwen, a volunteer from Sustainable Wantage who manages a group of volunteers at the garden on Sundays. Sarah writes, “The partnership works really well, together we organise and encourage community events to take place at the garden such as the Spring Festival on April 13th, which is open to the public. In the summer we have our barbecue to say thank you to everyone for their help and support. We also hold smaller workshops too, geared up for service­users we reflect the changing seasons e.g. wreath making, bird feeders made with oranges, cranberries and apples. We also regularly host corporate days at the garden, when volunteers assist with tasks like painting and construction”.
Sarah is inspired by the power of nature ­ when you’re outside on a beautiful day ­ working in the garden it gives you an amazing feeling, at that moment you are at one with nature, nothing is more real.
I’m incredibly lucky doing what I love in such a rewarding working environment. If you think you have the skills and ability to make a positive impact ­ enabling someone to do something or access something that leads to ‘possibilities’ for them and you, then care work is for you. All you need to be is a positive, caring, compassionate and self­motivated person.
Sarah’s favourite part of the job, blue skies, a sunny September day, Ray relaxed, picking runner beans he’s grown from seed ­ that’s got to be the best job in the world. It’s an example of a two­way thing making a difference to Ray and to me!
Sarah’s hope ­ the benefits the garden brings to everyone ­ the community seeing people with learning disabilities and autism from a different perspective. The garden continuing to grow in the future, reaching more people who can benefit. Sarah’s wish list, some sculptural art perhaps tactile forms or a water fountain, sensory items such as outdoor musical instruments.
Rob Edmonds­Seal, Director of Day Opportunities at Style Acre says ‘The success of our partnership at Wantage Market Garden is due to Sarah’s passion and commitment for her work. She is currently planning a gardening course for adults with mild learning disabilities which will be hugely beneficial for them’.
Turning Point is a leading social enterprise supporting people with a wide range of health, wellbeing and social care needs in over 200 locations across England. For over 50 years, Turning Point has worked with people with a learning disability, those affected by drug and alcohol misuse, mental health issues, primary care needs, offending behaviours, housing and unemployment issues.
Turning Point has been providing learning disability support to individuals for 25 years. Our strength is in providing and delivering services with and for people with learning disabilities, including those who have complex needs. We provide person­centred support for people with autism, behaviours that challenge, co­existing mental health issues, complex health needs and dementia. The aim is to help people live as independently as possible, empowering them to make choices about all aspects of their support.
In Oxfordshire, Turning Point provides support to people with learning disabilities in their own home. Turning Point supports people to stay engaged with their community as this fosters independence and keeps people in touch with the world around them. This also helps to ensure that people remain close to family members, friends and other local networks.
No matter how complex you may feel your
  The Community Services Worker Award
Highly Commended:
Staff Team, Carterton Turning Point
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