bOunceT COVID Response BLOG – for GCU blog

bOunceT Innovative Occupational Therapy CIC is a registered Community Interest Company in Scotland – and we exist to promOTe independence one bounce at a time! I (Callum – BSc Hons OT graduate from GCU) founded the social enterprise in 2017 after registering as an Occupational Therapist. I changed the focus of the business from using rebound therapy as our main intervention, to adopting an occupation-focussed and occupation-centred approach within our practice.

Mission statement – “bOunceT improves the quality of life and participation in meaningful occupations for children and adults with disabilities, and their family, in Scotland”.

Vision Statement – “for all individuals to be happy, healthy and able to participate in whatever activities they want, need, or have to do”

Prior to COVID-19, we offered a range of services to various individuals– including 1:1 and group inclusive & meaningful play activity sessions, interventions in schools & interventions with individuals referred through NHS/Council teams and private referrals. In December, we launched a new project called Meaningful Meetings – focusing on supporting parents and unpaid carers of children and adults with disabilities. However, as you can imagine, all of this is ‘out the window’ now – although maybe not for long if we embrace technology and change…

How has COVID-19 changed your occupational therapy practice?

Due to the unpredictability of lockdown, social distancing and extensive periods of shielding for this population, we have had to dramatically change the way our services are offered; from 1:1 and group ‘face-to-face’ sessions to virtual and socially distanced interventions.

In my opinion, it has never been more important to include our profession-specific language and theory into our clinical reasoning – e.g. occupational deprivation, occupational alienation, and occupational imbalance.  The target population we work with are deprived and alienated from their usual lifestyle and everyday activities that have meaning to them – this is causing an imbalance within their daily routine, mood, behaviours etc. It is important to remember the level of physical, social, and sensory challenges this population face throughout their life usually – due to their disability – therefore these individuals could experience significantly more disadvantage during this pandemic. Perhaps more importantly, we needed to consider the health and wellbeing of their parents and unpaid carers. It is widely recognised that parents of children with disabilities are automatically at increased risk of suffering from poor mental health due to their increased parenting demands.  This has been proven to have a negative impact on their identity, skills, and abilities as a parent. Again, if this is during ‘normal’ life without a pandemic then the real challenges these parents and carers are experiencing right now are even more extreme. Despite statutory, private and third sector services across Scotland stating there is an abundance of support to these parents – the accessibility of this support is continually challenged by many professionals and parents/ unpaid carers. This will only be harder for families to access as services across all sectors ‘go bust’ financially and/or capacity wise.

Therefore, considering all these changes and the fact COVID is not going to go away anytime soon, our Leadership Team, Board of Directors and staff have all worked hard to create a ‘new normal’.

How are you delivering services now?

 In response to COVID-19, we launched two main projects – ‘Therapy at Home’ & ‘Inclusive & Meaningful Play for Wellbeing’.  Our therapy at home project has seen us deliver online support and wellbeing check ins with 75+ parents and unpaid carers, whilst providing funded inclusive play equipment to children and adults with disabilities. This equipment included iPads & amazon fire tablets, with 130+ licenses to the Calm app (for mindfulness and meditation). Secondly, our Inclusive & Meaningful Play for Wellbeing project was recently funded by the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Fund, in response to COVID. As part of this funding, we have been able to recruit a former MSc OT student (Naomi) into a paid Play Assistant role for 3 months. This has enabled us to open our therapeutic play space for family-led bookings.

Naomi commented “It has been a positive experience to witness how the occupational therapy staff have effectively supported these families in a time of such change and uncertainty. I have witnessed the happiness that bOunceT has brought to families in many ways, such as offering opportunities for parents to discuss the challenges their families are facing and providing a safe, inclusive space to engage in play activities. It has been inspiring to see how an occupational therapy service can be creative in its approach to service delivery to ensure families get the support they need, at a time when they need it most. I hope that I can contribute to practice as it evolves in response to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.”

bOunceT already has good relationships with public sector Social Work, Education & Health services, and third sector organisations across Forth Valley. However, we need to focus on developing these partnerships further, and seek out new opportunities with new partners to have the biggest impact possible.  We are already planning with some partners how we can work with them to best suit the needs of service users – for example being part of the newly-embraced blended learning model with various schools and additional support needs (ASN) units. Furthermore, we are excited to be planning to host both a traditional Occupational Therapy placement AND (new) fully online placements for GCU students from September!

This new way of delivering services has already proven to be effective as initial feedback from families tell us that whilst these times are hard for everyone it is particularly difficult for families “like us” and bOunceT has been “the most supportive service to us during these challenging times”.

In a nutshell, COVID has ‘fast-tracked’ us into working in a new and exciting way – something I have been advocating and pushing for a while now. We want to continue to live up to our name as an innovative service, whilst collaborating on an equal level with our partners and families themselves to allow individuals to be happy, healthy and be able to participate in whatever activities they want to, need to, or have to do.

Written by Callum MacKinnon, Founder & Occupational Therapy Lead, bOunceT