Gloucestershire Funders’ Spotlight is a series aimed at raising awareness of some of the organisations we have helped to fund. Each week we speak with a representative and ask them questions about what it is that they do, what they have learned during the last few months, and how else they might be supported to ensure they can keep making a difference to lives in Gloucestershire. This week we spoke with Gill from National Star College.
What does National Star College do, where are you based and who do you work with?
Our charity supports vulnerable young people with complex disabilities, along with high personal care, therapy, emotional and medical support needs. We do this through the provision of residential and day learning, training and personal development programmes, along with short and long-term specialist accommodation. We were founded in 1967 in Ullenwood, Gloucestershire, and this is still where the bulk of our services are delivered, along with our long term residential accommodation in Cheltenham and Gloucester.
How has National Star College and the people you work alongside been affected over the last 3 months?
The last few months have been very challenging for our charity. We have stayed open throughout the coronavirus pandemic to care for and support a significant number of the young people who depended on us. Our frontline nursing, care, and therapies teams have been pulling out all the stops to keep everyone safe, well and happy. We have been barrier nursing those who have had symptoms or are extremely clinically vulnerable. Learning programmes and therapies have been delivered in a limited way with specific staff allocated to each residence, combined with some remote learning and therapies delivered on a one-to one basis and in group. It is a testament to our high level of care and support that so many families have entrusted their children to us during these worrying times, and we have had some lovely messages from families. Financially we have faced significant financial challenges. Since mid-March 2020 our income from income generation activities, and fundraising activities and events has been seriously impacted by the pandemic. It is unlikely that we will be able to resume many of these activities for some considerable time as our absolute priority is to protect the vulnerable young people we care for. All our sites remain closed to the general public as part of our infection control measures. Additional unplanned costs of PPE and infection control measures have added to the challenges.
Have you learned anything or been surprised by anything during this time?
The resilience of the young people we support. Life in lockdown when you have complex disabilities has not been easy but we have all got through it, in no small part to our dedicated staff teams who have kept everyone engaged and active. Students have adapted to having some of their learning progra
mmes and therapies delivered virtually, and instead of outings and trips everyone has embraced the dancethons, themed party nights and residence-based festivals that our staff teams have organised, including Bradstock at Bradbury Gardens in Cheltenham, and LizzieFest at Elizabeth House in Gloucester.
How will the money from Gloucestershire Funders be used by your organisation?
We have used the money from Gloucestershire Funders to cover some of the costs of essential PPE (personal protective equipment) that we have needed to keep our young people and staff safe. It has been invaluable in ensuring we can stay open to care for those who have depended on us, and provide reassurance for their families. We are so grateful to Gloucestershire Funders for this support.
Are you still fundraising? How can people support your organisation?
Our number one priority is to continue to provide the best care and learning opportunities possible while protecting our beneficiaries and staff from the risk of infection. We are continuing with our robust infection control measures, and expect to do so for several months to come. Although we continue to weather the storm, there are uncertain times ahead, and our efforts have come at a heavy financial cost to National Star. Any help would be appreciated so that we can continue to be there for those who need us most. Donations can be made via our website at www.nationalstar.org/donate. Thank you.