Adult disability service on staying strong during Covid-19 pandemic

The Helping Hands Group stays open in Wisbech

The Helping Hands Group, which has a centre in Wisbech, has remained open throughout the Covid-19 pandemic for adults with learning disabilities. - Credit: The Helping Hands Group

A service that offers services for adults with learning disabilities which has stayed open throughout the Covid-19 pandemic said closure would be “beyond imaginable”. 

The Helping Hands Group, which has a centre in Wisbech, has remained open since last March, and focuses on building areas such as education and life skills, as well as woodwork, catering and art sessions. 

When the first lockdown was enforced, the Group was determined to stay open despite many similar services closing in a bid to maintain some kind of normality to people’s lives. 

“When Covid first kicked off last March, everywhere was closing. When you have got learning disabilities, you need stability,” Neil Gilby, director and co-founder of The Helping Hands Group, said. 

“We’ve had to think about safety, but also parents as if the individuals are not coming into the service, the parents will need to look after them.   

“We want to put people with learning disabilities first and give them the same opportunities as everyone else.”

Neil said the Group has heard of the struggles some parents are facing due to provision services not being open for their child because of the pandemic. 

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One key theme for the Group, which has three centres in Cambridgeshire, has been ensuring those that attend still have a routine so that their lives are not as disrupted. 

“During Covid, we have managed to keep it as normal as possible, Neil said.  

“Staff wear face masks; however we live in a world where wherever they go, they see people with face masks. 

“That familiarity that has been priceless for them and our work has paid off.” 

The Helping Hands Group Wisbech

The Helping Hands Group, which has a centre in Wisbech, also offers sessions including art, woodwork and catering. - Credit: The Helping Hands Group

The Wisbech centre on Algores Way is due to open a sensory garden this summer, as well as a sunken trampoline and disabled-friendly swings, including for wheelchair users. 

If it was not for The Helping Hands Group, which takes care of around 70 adults with learning disabilities, Neil believes this could have had consequences on both the individual and their families. 

“The consequences of closing for those that use the service is beyond imaginable,” he said.  

“Those individuals that use the service are left at home, and their parents may have to give up work or be furloughed and have to create a new routine for them. 

“We are about offering experiences and creating an equal platform for those with a learning disability.” 

For more information on The Helping Hands Group, visit:, email or call 01945 589424.