The group decided they wanted to enrich and support their local community, specifically they wanted to launch a project named 'Helping Hound' in Southwark.
The group's dream for Helping Hound was a service whereby they would work together as a team to coordinate and carry out visits to elderly and frail people in their local community, with the resident Bede dog, named Hapus.
Through these visits they would be providing elderly people in the community with a wonderful visit to look forward to and enjoy, whilst at the same time connecting members of the community and breaking down misconceptions around learning disability.
What we did
In order to officially launch Helping Hound the team had lots of work to do! With Mencap's support the group planned how this project would run, they identified key areas they needed to work on, including dog handling, advertising and coordinating visits.
The learners worked together to learn key dog handling skills, planned how the visits would work, considered health and safety risks, designed flyers to advertise their service, and organised an official launch event!
Given the different nature of the groups disabilities, some enjoyed the more practical activities, such as designing the flyers, while others really thrived on the more detailed elements of the planning, that involved the mind mapping of ideas and compiling risk assessments.
All members of the group learned vital skills, such as time keeping and team work, and developed in confidence.
The launch event
We held the project launch event at Bede Centre. The event involved dog-themed games and activities, such as fabricating dog kennels with D.I.Y material, practical demonstrations from the service users of how to handle and give commands to a dog, as well as dog themed quizzes.
In total approximately 50 people attended the event to celebrate with the group.
Progress to date
The group have already made their first visit to an elderly couple in the community, who they discovered love dogs; so this visit went down very well and there will be many more.
The group have also approached a local Age UK day centre about a Helping Hound visit, and they are hopeful of setting up regular visits in the near future, enabling them to reach multiple people in just one day!
Bede have plans to move to a new site that is part of the estate the are currently located in. Their vision is that the new building will be at the heart of the neighbourhood. There is a high perpcentage of elderly people on the estate and Bede want to ensure they can be part of the services they offer.
We're very excited for Helping Hound to continue to grow and become a strong link between the elderly and people with a learning disability, both groups that have been hit by financial cuts in Southwark.