• Date awarded: July 2021
  • Awarded value: £3,650
  • Fund: NHS Charities Together Community Partnership Grants Programme
  • Location: Across Fife
Musical equipment supplied as part of the PAMIS virtual project funded by Fife Health Charity via NHS Charities Together Partnership Grants Programme.

Funding from Fife Health Charity via NHS Charities Together Community Partnership Grants Programme enabled PAMIS to purchase a range of specialist equipment to deliver online multisensory activities and support for people with profound learning and multiple disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PAMIS Fife supports people with profound learning and multiple disabilities (PLMD) and their family carers to help them to lead healthy, valued and included lives. Responding to the restrictions caused by the COVID pandemic, PAMIS set up a virtual project to provide a range of meaningful and safe physical and social activities online for people with PMLD and their family carers.

As many PAMIS clients were self isolating due to health conditions, the project purchased and delivered packs of specialist equipment to allow families to take part in the activities within their homes. The equipment focused on providing interactive multisensory storytelling and sporting opportunities for motor activities (SOMA), music therapy and yoga for family carers.

In addition to having a profound learning disability, many people with PMLD have a life limiting condition and may also be non-verbal, a wheelchair user and experience hearing and visual impairment and other issues. Caring is an intensive and isolating role, with many family carers providing support every day and round the clock with little, if any, respite.

Research and past experience of similar projects indicated that the emotional and physical benefits for people with PMLD include improved concentration, development of gross motor skills and enhanced engagement with activities and others. Using the packs purchased for the project, the PAMIS team was also able to offer weekly online music therapy sessions for small groups, plus supportive online sessions for family carers, including training and guidance to deliver multisensory storytelling and SOMA in their own home. The yoga sessions for family carers were led by an approved yoga teacher who supported the participants, offering them the opportunity to take part in meaningful activity during periods of self isolation.

People with PMLD and their families are some of the most isolated within our communities. Due to the need to self isolate during the COVID pandemic, people with PMLD and their family carers had become even more socially isolated and less active, resulting in negative effects on physical and mental health.

PAMIS has been passionate about multisensory storytelling for many years and have worked in research to develop and enhance its benefits for people with PMLD. A key aim of the PAMIS project was to reduce the risk of people deteriorating physically and mentally during self isolation, which in the longer term would help to prevent or minimise hospital admissions, especially during the pandemic when healthcare was experiencing a range of unprecedented challenges and pressures. As well as providing activity for the person with PMLD, the project offered families the opportunity to interact with other families, reducing the isolation reported by many and supporting them in their caring role. 

During the course of the project, observations were made by the PAMIS team, with the virtual activities judged on indicators such as engagement and interactions. The staff reported that during activities such as multisensory storytelling there was progressive engagement by the participants, including children with PMLD.

In keeping with standard practice, PAMIS worked closely with parents and family carers to evaluate the success of the activities and the overall benefits of the project by gathering feedback after each activity. In addition, the PAMIS Fife team worked closely with the professionals who led the activities during the project, planning the activities carefully and evaluating them after they had taken place to ensure the best possible service was being provided.

The Difference Our Funding is Making

The unique benefits of participating in the PAMIS project can be illustrated by the experience of one young boy  with profound physical and learning disabilities who enjoys interactions with others, storytelling and music. Usually very active and social, JT loves taking part in swimming and being outdoors, however the pandemic meant he and his household became very isolated.

Due to complex health care needs, JT had to shield for the first 6 months of the pandemic, which was exceptionally challenging for the family as they balanced the need for isolation with their anxiety about the possibility of JT catching COVID-19 and the impact that would have on his health. The family was equally concerned about his emotional wellbeing and possible regressions in his physical and mental health due to the number of care and support services that were no longer available during the pandemic.

Thanks to the support of Fife Health Charity via NHS Charities Together Community Partnership Grants Programme, PAMIS was able to provide JT with his own box of musical instruments to take part in online activities. After having to isolate for so long with little interaction during the pandemic, JT was able to enjoy the benefits of living a fuller life and engaging with others while taking part in regular online activities.

Post pandemic, JT has continued to regularly attend online activities initially introduced via the virtual multisensory project.  The introduction to multisensory storytelling has also helped to equip his family with the knowledge and ideas to run their own sessions within their home. As well as impacting positively on his motor skills, hand to eye coordination and cognitive development, JT’s musical instruments can be used in his day-to-day life in multiple ways including activities with PAMIS, music therapy sessions and having fun with family and friends.