Awards recognises work of occupational therapists

AN OCCUPATIONAL therapist, who helps people stay in their own homes despite their increasing frailty or disability, has become the first holder of a new West Sussex County Council annual award that recognises their work in the county.

Diana Knight – an OT with 32 years’ experience – received The Glenys Somerset Memorial Award, which was launched by the county council to recognise and promote the work of occupational therapists in social care.

Diana, who works as part of the Independent Living Team in Chichester, said: “It was a real emotional moment as I didn’t expect it. The award means a lot to me and to OTs in general as it recognises the work we do, which is to help keep people in their home for as long as possible by assessing how well they can carry out daily living tasks in their home, such as advising on equipment and adaptations. Keeping people in their homes is what I love about the job.”

The award also remembers former colleague Glenys Somerset, who died in 2010, aged 53.

Glenys was an occupational therapist who worked for the county council for many years across West Sussex, first as practitioner and latterly as a manager.

Glenys felt that occupational therapy makes a real difference to the lives of disabled people of all ages including children, enabling them to be as independent as possible.

When she died, her husband James Barber wanted to put in place an award to honour her memory and also to celebrate the work of occupational therapists working for the county council.

He attended the first ceremony with their elder daughter Charity, son Luke and daughter-in-law Emma – a day that would also have been Glenys’s 55th birthday.

Speaking at the ceremony, James said: “Glenys’s career, involving helping those in need and working with some wonderful people, was extremely important to her. She was dedicated, caring and always striving to achieve the best for clients and colleagues.

“It was almost vocational for her – which came as a surprise, I think, considering it was an occupation she’d never heard of before flicking through a careers brochure all those years ago in South Africa.

“But through her training and the different fields of experience – mental health, adults, the elderly and finally children – she came to improve the lives of scores of people who needed help.”

He added: “Your role is a crucial one in society - to my mind it ranks alongside nurses and teachers. You make a huge, positive difference to people’s lives and yet your efforts go largely unrecognised.

“In Glenys’s name, we – the family and West Sussex County Council - want to ensure that the best of your work is recognised.”

Peter Catchpole, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Adults Services, said: “It’s a fitting tribute in two ways. Firstly in recognition of the professionalism of Diana Knight and secondly in memory of a former colleague whose work exemplified all that is best about the work of occupational therapists and the Independent Living Team.”