How Street Wisdom helped my lockdown dilema by Rachel Sharpe RSA Fellowship Councillor

By Mark Brown

The pressures of social isolation and fear of infection has quickly become the topic of most Zoom, telephone and (if you’re lucky) face to face conversations.  Unprecedented questions of how society will function, education will work and fear of uncertainty regarding social care settings.  Up until four months ago I thought I had a good system for dealing with big questions, like most people I’ve created my own eco-system of family, friends, colleagues, work, and distractions to help navigate challenges, of which I’ve had my fair share. 


I’m very fortunate to be a mum to two great children, one of them happens to be profoundly autistic (he’s also many other things including, fun, caring, extremely energetic and beautiful), but Stanley’s autism is the challenge we must think about first, to ensure he is safe, happy and settled. As a family we’re not new to big decisions, on a few terrifying occasions we’ve stood by Stanley’s hospital bedside and battled with doctors to make the right decisions to save his life, and on many others we’ve had to battle against decision makers to ensure Stanley is in the right setting, with the right care and people; a situation so many carers battle daily. Stanley lives at his school setting Monday to Friday; the fight to find and secure the right setting was unspeakably hard, but, the moment we had to get used to not seeing him during the week took two years to come to terms with (Stanley on the other hand settled in immediately). 

On what felt like my lowest day during the Covid-19 crisis, questions about Stanley’s care were coming from all angles (and many more generated in my head) I don’t mind admitting I felt broken, had no clarity and couldn’t do what I’ve promised to do for Stanley, always think with my head.  So I decided to put my question to the street, ‘where is the safest place for Stanley to shield’?   Tuning up allowed me to block out all the what ifs, (and there were many), helping focus on the question. The nature of a quest on the move gave me purpose.  It might sound strange, but my answer came from a sign hanging on the fence of a garage at the bottom of my village, it said ‘Safety First’, obvious isn’t it!  I stood Infront of the sign and laughed for a long time, because I already knew this, but I needed a reminder, and a framework to gain perspective. 

The past 70 days have been really tough, Stanley had an 11th birthday, learnt to use a fork and he’s grown nearly 2 inches, but most importantly he’s been in the safest place, continued his therapies and been genuinely happy, something I fear he wouldn’t have achieved if we had made the wrong decision and bought him home full time. So thanks Street Wisdom, thanks for being there when no one else could be, and I didn’t know which way to turn.  It still makes me smile that the answer which kept me awake for nights, was at the bottom of my road, just goes  to show the answers really are all around you.

Rachel Sharpe, FRSA, Fellowship Councillor Central Region