The Yume Project helps support adults with learning disabilities
When a group of care workers were made redundant they decided they needed to set up their own day service to ensure the adults they supported would continue to have somewhere to go.
And they used their redundancy money to do it.
Claud Monteiro was one of those people and the organisation they set up more than a decade ago, was the Yume Project.
Claud, who grew up in West Berkshire and went to school locally, “came from an arts background”, studying sculpture at university.
His art, he says, “always had a community slant” and he trained as a community artist.
“When I finished at Wolverhampton University, I drifted into care work,” he explains. “I started off working in very challenging circumstances; in challenging respite homes as they were then.
“I then started working for West Berkshire Council, running art groups and art sessions.”
Now, 25 years later, Claud has amassed a wealth of experience in the sector, never moving out of the profession.
“Every day is a day at school when you work in care,” he says. “Everybody is different. It is all about the individual.
“People are complex and the services available are always evolving. Repetition and consistency are incredibly important to this sector, but there is always a need to grow.”
The Yume Project was set up in 2011 to support adults with learning disabilities – a direct result of the economic crisis that had rocked the country in 2008.
Yume is Japanese for dream – and that’s what this project is for those involved; the carers and the cared for.
“The Yume Project was the result of huge cuts to public services,” Claud adds. “West Berkshire went down from nine to three day centres.
“They made vast swathes of staff redundant, but encouraged us to set up our own project.
“Me and some colleagues from the Phoenix Centre, in Newbury, used our redundancy and our skills to carry on.
“One of our very first clients, Daniel, was really interested in Japan too, so it is something that means a lot to us.”
For some of the adults they had supported as West Berkshire Council staff, nothing really changed, which was just what they needed.
“On a Friday we offer art classes in the morning and music in the afternoon, which we had always done,” Claud explains.
“For some of the people we managed to keep some consistency, which is really important.
“We set up with a mix of stuff we inherited and our redundancies paid for one minibus.
“We also got some support from West Berkshire Council in terms of funding and training, which was good."
The project is now able to offer a limited amount of transport to help ensure the people they help can attend certain activities, such as bowling.
“We are amongst the most community-based organisations,” Claud adds. “We have a handful of cars and minibuses now that we can use to get the people around.
“Sometimes it’s like a military operation to see everyone get out.
“We are virtually unchanged over the past 10 years though. We had a vision and we got that quite quickly and have stuck to that.
“There’s not a lot of room to grow in size as there is roughly the same number of people in the community who need your services every year.”
But they were forced to alter the way they worked – as the whole world was – over the past two years.
Claud is clearly relieved when he says that every one of their clients is happy again now, but he admits navigating the Covid pandemic hasn’t been easy.
“One of the challenges is to provide consistency and routine,” he adds. “We have responded to the needs of the group. Social media, for example, has become more important.
“We have had a long-standing photography group and over time it has become more about mobile phones and social media.
“There’s always something new coming in. This year we have got a circus skills group starting.
“We are also looking at foraging workshops this year too. It’s a reason to engage in the environment around us.
“The workshops are important to retain a connection to the local community; it’s really important for us to mesh in with the local community.
“That is part of our duty as carers. And for us that’s about getting out to the library or a café.”
The Yume Project has a team of 10 carers and supports around 40 people, with groups of between 12 and 20 people attending its sessions.
It is chiefly funded by the local authority – through payments for an individual’s care needs – which has helped ensure the organisation hasn’t been as vulnerable as some during the pandemic.
“We do have to fundraise ourselves too,” Claud adds. “We need to be able to pay for the extra workshops and treats.”
Coronavirus threw up a number of huge issues for the project to deal with too.
“Covid has had an impact,” says 47-year-old project manager Claud. “There was two years of providing an odd product and needs changed.
“We did operate throughout but we couldn’t run regular sessions.
“Central government said we were to do whatever it took to keep people safe so we kept a very minimal service going for those who needed something. There was no model in the beginning.
“There were just two weeks throughout the whole pandemic where we shut.
“We switched to doorstep visits and went on Zoom. It has been horrendous because our clients just didn’t understand isolating and mask wearing.”
He said everyone at the Yume Project was “very relieved to get back” to running in person sessions as soon as regulations allowed.
“We have relaxed a great many measures but we still have masks on minibuses and staff take lft tests every day [this interview was conducted before the end of free testing in England],” he says.
“We do temperature testing every day and hand washing and hand sanitising is all done regularly still too.”
The pandemic may be causing less worry these days, but it has been replaced by the uncertainty of fuel prices and Claud admits they are closely monitoring when they fill up the minibuses.
“We are short staffed at the moment, as always, but we’re not as bad as some other providers,” Claud says.
“It was a lot of fun before the pandemic. I am keen to see that come back now.”