Belper’s Whitemoor centre opens up to celebrate summer

Friday afternoon karaoke at the centre.
Friday afternoon karaoke at the centre.

A Belper centre for people with learning disabilities is preparing to open its doors this summer so everybody can see the amazing work they do.

The Whitemoor Day Centre on John O’Gaunts Way provides day services for adults with a wide range of learning disabilities from across Amber Valley.

Whitemoor Day Centre in Belper.

Whitemoor Day Centre in Belper.

On Saturday July 16 it will host its very first summer fair and fun day, where the whole community will have a chance to join in with the fun the service users and staff have on a daily basis.

Deputy manager, Lucy Clarke, who has worked there for 11 years, said: “This is the first time we will have held an event like this and we are hoping lots of people from Belper will come and join us.

“We celebrated 30 years last year, but now we want to show ourselves off a bit more to the community. The service is quite well known in Belper but not a lot of people know what we do and we want to change that.”

The vast array of different tasks service users can get involved in is amazing and can include activities such as horse riding, yoga, sign language, art, cookery and drama.

Jamie Hehir playing the keyboard.

Jamie Hehir playing the keyboard.

As we take a look around, a drama group is practising a pantomime which is an uproarious ‘mash-up’ of fairy tale and Shakespeare entitled Snow White and the Seven Day Service Workers.

In one scene, Macbeth’s three witches have great fun at the expense of an evil stepmother, using a finely-honed and frankly blood-curdling witches cackle to its full effect.

One of the greatest success stories in the last few years for the centre has undoubtedly been its garden nursery.

Here in its greenhouse and poly-tunnels, the clients grow plants and produce hanging baskets which are then sold to the public.

Elizabeth Bell in the garden area greenhouse.

Elizabeth Bell in the garden area greenhouse.

The money raised from what they sell goes towards extras for the service users such as trips to the seaside or recently a computer for their sensory room.

Day service worker, Anthony Moore, has been involved with the garden nursery for around eight years.

“A lot of people would tell you they can’t do it, but here we say they can do it,” he says.

“It does take a bit of time to get them up to standard but we believe they have to do it themselves.

Deputy manager Lucy Clarke showing Sharon Foster some of the centres artwork.

Deputy manager Lucy Clarke showing Sharon Foster some of the centres artwork.

“We don’t want people to come and buy things for pity, we want people to buy because it is good stuff - as good as anywhere else.”

Lucy tells me that each item contains the initials of the client who produced it so that customers can find out and thank the person who made it.

The centre currently has around 70 clients on its books but not all use the centre at the same time.

“The staff here tend to support users on a one-to-one or one-to-two basis,” explains Dawn Poyzer, one of the day service workers.

“All our work is user-focused and we have a really good induction system so service users know what to expect when they come here.

“It’s a way of getting to know them better before they even come here so we know what they like or don’t like and what they want to do when they arrive.”

Alistair Lang in his book shop.

Alistair Lang in his book shop.

Such is the quality of the centre’s work, it has recently been awarded a silver ‘dignity in care’ award from Derbyshire County Council and hopes to better this in the near future.

This is not to say everything is always perfect - sometimes the behaviour of clients can be ‘challenging’, but Dawn says that is where the staff’s excellent training comes in.

“When you get to know someone well you can prevent bad things happening before they do so, and the good days massively outweigh the bad,” she says.

Lucy agrees: “It is just normal to us and the staff here get a lot out of what we do - we are very proud to work here.”

The Whitemoor Summer Fair will take place on Saturday July 16 between noon and 3pm.

Tai chi session with Lucy Chamberline and Marg Sharpe.

Tai chi session with Lucy Chamberline and Marg Sharpe.

Danny Commentant in the garden area greenhouse.

Danny Commentant in the garden area greenhouse.