Meet Kieran: Program Manager of the Barnardos Penrith Disability Respite Service

Kieran is Program Manager of the Barnardos Disability Respite Service in Penrith. "As an essential service, we have remained open and are busier than ever. Social distancing rules have added an extra challenge to deliver our services but we know this work is so important for the health and safety of our families. It is critical these families get a break. Many of our clients are high needs and some have challenging behavioural issues. These needs can place a huge strain on parents and other siblings in the family. I’ve had to reassure many stressed parents that we would still be here for them.

Hand sanitiser is on high rotation and staff have been calling families ahead of time to check clients are symptom-free in order to manage any transmission risks. Normally we would take clients to the gym or out to restaurants so they can have experiences that their families might otherwise find difficult. With lots of facilities now closed, we’ve had to be really creative with our activities. Luckily we have lots of space at the Penrith Centre so we can spread out and run a few different activities every day.

One of our clients, 13-year-old Jonathan, has been coming to the Centre four days a week and his mum cares for him every other day. He is not allowed to go to school because of his condition and so a staff member picks him up every day for activities, including homework, crafts and physical exercise. Jonathan’s sister is in Year 12 so the family needs a break. Jonathan is a very affectionate boy who likes a lot of attention. His mother, who is a single parent, told me she would go insane without Barnardos. Jonathan’s sister has been struggling with the current isolation and their mother wants time to support her daughter too.

I love my job and I’m so glad my staff and I can be there to support our families."