While non-essential visits are on hold, residents of a state-of-the-art care village in Wigan are able to feel closer to friends and family thanks to specially made cushions featuring photographs of loved ones.

Every one of Belong Wigan’s 66 residents has been presented with a personalised cushion, each one bearing a picture of a friend or family member, including husbands and wives, sons and daughters and friends.

The initiative was spurred by Katie Wilde, a support worker on one of the care village’s households for people requiring 24-hour care, who set out to raise £100 to purchase a cushion for each of the household’s 11 residents. When she raised over four times her target, she decided to make one for every resident at the village, collaborating with SKILS CIC, a social enterprise based in Wigan, who produced the cushions.

Commenting on the initiative, Pam Gwinnet, daughter of Mary Gwinnet, who lives at Belong Wigan, said: “Seeing how happy Mum was when she was received her cushion with a picture of our family on is reassurance that she is being well cared for and comfortable while we are unable to see her in person. I’d like thank the team at Belong, particularly Katie, for being so kind.”

Speaking about the initiative, Belong Wigan general manager Gill Menguy, said: “The ability to see and hold an object with a picture of a loved one on has brought a huge amount of joy and alleviated some of the feelings of isolation during lockdown. Restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus have forced us to find creative ways of maintaining residents’ physical and mental wellbeing, including using technology to allow people to stay connected with family and friends and enjoy a range of activities.”

Belong Wigan went into lockdown on 16 March, meaning that for a three-month period, all but essential visits were suspended as part of infection prevention measures. This week is set to be the scene for many a family reunion, as garden visits are introduced at the village.

Gill added: “Following blanket testing earlier this month and the end of the difficult period when residents couldn’t see their relatives, we are pleased to confirm that we have no active cases of coronavirus in the village. We are welcoming new residents into our community, subject to screening and testing, who can be assured that we have rigorous procedures in place to minimise the risk of infection.”