The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge detrimental impact on Daisy Chain with both the Day Centre in Norton and the Charity Superstore on Portrack Lane having to close their doors meaning a significant loss of income and cessation of most of our support services.

While everyone involved has been keen to get things restarted as soon as possible to ensure that support for children, young people and adults affected by autism can continue, it is essential that it is done in a considered way which is in line with government guidelines and with the health and safety of all involved as our top priority.

We were able to reopen the Superstore at the start of June with a number of measures in place including restrictions on the number of people in store at any time, hand sanitiser, quarantining of donated items before they are sorted and put out for sale, and the provision of PPE for staff and volunteers.

Local companies NAD Lab UK and Masqonn came forward to offer 200 face masks at no cost to be used at both the Superstore and at the Day Centre when it reopens, an incredibly generous gesture which means that vital funds being saved while health and safety is kept at a high standard.

As has been highlighted in the press over the last few days, face masks aren't always suitable for individuals - breathing conditions such as asthma, physical or mental illness or impairment or a disability which means you can't put on, wear of remove a face covering, and people who are providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading being some of the reasons that a face mask might not be suitable. 

Billingham-based engineering firm PhusionIM offered us the solution to this, in the form of clear visors which provide a transparent shield for the whole face. Their staff, while working from home, have been using 3D printing equipment to produce these visors which have also been distributed free of charge to local hospitals and GP practices.

The visors are already in use at the Superstore and when the Day Centre reopens to service users, the care staff will be able to use the visors which are less intimidating to see for children and their families.

The support of NAD Lab UK, Masquonn and Phusion IM is invaluable to us and has ensured that we can safeguard staff, volunteers, customers and service users while saving funds which can instead be used to continue supporting families affected by autism.