The art of day care – better services for people with learning disabilities

Martin Wray with Ocean Arts' latest exhibition at the Customs House, South Shields.
Martin Wray with Ocean Arts' latest exhibition at the Customs House, South Shields.

Bosses of a community organisation in South Tyneside are restructuring the company so they can provide a better service to people with learning disabilities.

Ocean Arts is offering day care services to disabled people in the borough, catered specially to individual needs.

Rather than the money going to local authorities, it will go directly to the person and they can spend it on doing what they like day to day.

Martin Wray, Ocean Arts director

Martin Way, director of the group, which is based at The CustomSpace, in South Shields, said: “It’s about the people, not the organisation.

“We want to be at the forefront in delivering personal centred programmes for people.

“We’ve become a Community Interest Company, which means a whole new direction for us and that we’re creating new opportunities to improve the quality of life and day care in the borough.”

The new initiative means that people with physical and learning disabilities, who receive benefits for their living and daily needs will have more control over their daytime activities.

Martin added: “Rather than the money going to local authorities, it will go directly to the person and they can spend it on doing what they like day to day.

“We know their dreams, aspirations and goals and can work with them doing things they’ll enjoy and helping them prepare for their future.”

Ocean Arts was set up to offer adults with learning disabilities the chance to give art, drama, music, and performing a go.

The group has worked alongside others to collaborate on big projects including events to mark the centenary of the First World War, the Lindisfarne Gospels’ visit to the area and the Great North Passion, which was broadcast by the BBC live from South Shields on Good Friday, last year.

Margaret Salmon’s son, Colin, uses his direct payments to spend two days a week at Ocean Arts.

The 54-year-old, from South Shields, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

Margaret said: “He really enjoys going to Ocean Arts and it’s great that he’s got some stability now.

“He was at the John Wright Centre until that got closed down, then he was moved to the Lonnen and was chucked out of there, and now he finally feels settled. I was a bit dubious about the direct payments at first but it all seems to be going very well and it means Colin can do what he really wants to do.”

To find out more about the scheme, contact Ocean Arts on 0191 454 4659 or email contactus@oceanasrtscic.uk