Essex REMAP charity sees sharp drop in demand since pandemic

A man turns the page of a newspaper using a modified head-stick with a rubber attachment to grab the paper.
Image caption,REMAP engineers help to create or modify objects to make life easier for people with disabilities.

By Stuart Woodward

BBC News

A charity that makes everyday life easier for people with disabilities said the pandemic had led to a drop in referrals for its services.

REMAP engineers adapt and modify everyday objects such as cutlery, door handles and table cut-outs.

But the charity said its engineers did not have enough work to do due to fewer requests from social worker and healthcare visits.

Essex County Council said it was working to increase referrals.

Adrian Hart was given a tray to attach to his wheelchair, but it was too large to fit through the doorframe to his kitchen. With the help of REMAP, he now has one that fits perfectly.

“It’s only a little bit of wood but it’s given me my independence back,” he said.

“There must be a lot of people in my position who’ve never heard of REMAP before, but they can change people’s worlds.”

Adrian Hart with his old tray and his new tray.
Image caption,Adrian’s original tray would not fit through his kitchen door, so REMAP made one that could

REMAP has nearly 1,000 volunteers across the UK, all with an engineering background.

Other examples of their work include a walking stick with a laser pointer to help people with Parkinson’s disease, rotating cutlery for a lady with arthritis and a pole to help adjust a radiator.

Peter Livingstone, chairman of REMAP in central Essex, said his engineers come up with clever solutions.

“We go to their home, understand the problem, go away to our sheds and garages, make it, come back and make sure it works,” he said.

The charity has also created games consoles for people with dementia with the help of pupils from the Plume Academy in Maldon and Felsted School.

School pupil helping a REMAP engineer to build a games console for people with dementia.
Image caption,School pupils have been helping REMAP to build games consoles for people with dementia

Most of REMAP’s work comes from referrals from social worker and healthcare visits to people’s homes, although people can also approach REMAP directly as well.

Mr Livingstone said since the pandemic, the number of referrals to his central Essex branch from these home visits had dropped by around 50%.

He believes the reduction in home visits – and therefore referrals to REMAP – are due to changes to how social services and healthcare workers operate, such as increased online appointments.

Essex County Council said it carried out “a large number of face-to-face visits and assessments for individuals in local communities across Essex”.

A spokesperson added the council “greatly values the life-changing work of REMAP and other community organisations” and said it was committed to increasing referrals to them.

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