Last month our Alnwood unit held its latest open day for parents, carers and staff from other organisations who work with our young people.
Families and carers visit Alnwood throughout the year but because the unit is a medium secure environment they can’t always see as much of the ward as they’d like.
Our open days aim to address this and make Alnwood generally a more open place by letting families see the whole unit, from wards to our activity room, recreational areas and educational spaces.
We have held open days every six months at Alnwood for the last three years, and we always aim to time our summer open day so that it falls within the national Carers Week.
During our latest open day visitors saw areas including our music, design and technology rooms, English language and literature classroom and our art room which was lined with some of the brilliant artworks our young people have produced.
At its heart the day is all about our young people, who are pro-actively involved in organising all aspects of the day – for example they decide the menu and make lots of the food available for guests.
We caught up with some of the many visitors to Alnwood throughout the day:
John, W’s dad, said: “It was really nice to see the different range of activities here, meet the staff and see parts of the ward you don’t normally see. It’s our second time at the Alnwood activity day and we’ve really enjoyed it.”
Lisa Stembridge-Webb, a social worker for one of the young people at Alnwood, said: “I’ve come here from Surrey and E has been in variants of secure care places for around three years. It feels very friendly here in the North East, and I think this place feels lovely for E. She is in a position where she’s really developed here, and we’d like to get her in a community placement soon.”
Our young people also enjoyed the day. W said “It was good and the food was nice!” W particularly liked hearing his dad talk to our activity coordinator Clive about what W was up to in activities. E said: “It was good” and she liked “teachers saying nice things about her, this felt good.”
We also spoke to some of the Alnwood staff. Tim Diggle, an NTW consultant clinical psychologist who works into Alnwood, said: “The open days are a terrific way of meeting families and carers in a friendly context where we can have a natter. It’s very destigmatising, makes us all more human and breaks down barriers.”
Dave Goldsmith, Alnwood Clinical Manager, said: “We take any opportunity we can to engage family and carers – after all, the carers and families are experts themselves by experience. Opportunities like today help to reassure parents, carers and professionals at other organisations that we are transparent about our service and its work.”
Marie Robson, English Teacher and Department Educational Coordinator at Alnwood, said: “People may feel intimidated by the secure setting, so it’s nice to break down barriers and see what the place is like.”
Alnwood provides medium secure inpatient assessment and treatment for young people up to 18 years who have complex mental health needs, including those with a learning disability. You can find out more about Alnwood here.
All our young people are referred to by first name initial only to protect patient confidentiality.