Long periods of isolation have damaged the self-confidence of some of Trafford’s most medically-vulnerable residents during lockdown. But the Council has come up with a unique plan to get them out and about and enjoying the outdoors again: Alpacas.
Members of Supported Living Service – a scheme designed to help local people retain their independence – have been taking Trafford’s residents on walks with these friendly, furry animals as the country around them reopens.
The idea of the alpaca strolls is to help people build up their self-confidence now that restrictions have lifted, with participants able to chat amongst one another and find new friends.
Residents got to go on their first walk with the alpacas in the Calderdale countryside last month.
“Many of the people we help through Supported Living have been particularly vulnerable during the COVID pandemic and so haven’t really been able to go out due to the shielding restrictions,” said Leesa Banks, organiser and Team Leader at Trafford Council.
“I thought this would be a great way for them to get used to being outdoors and socialising with people again.”
While Leesa admits that recruiting alpacas is a somewhat strange and unconventional technique, she said it “brought a smile to people’s faces”.
“It will be a great talking point for them,” she added.
The alpacas come from a family-run business near Hollingworth Lake that specialises in “alpaca walking” just to the north of the borough of Rochdale, but the native South American animals aren’t just limited to the local countryside.
“For people with mobility problems, they can even bring the Alpacas to care homes and can be led into residents’ rooms,” Leesa continues.
“It’s sure to be beneficial for wellbeing since the isolation of lockdown.”
Cllr Jo Harding – Executive Member for Adult Services at Trafford Council – added: “During the pandemic, our priority has been to protect vulnerable people.
“Even with vaccinations and restrictions easing, we still have to be careful but we also have to focus on people’s mental health needs as well [and] this is a brilliant way of doing that, while enjoying the great countryside.”
Featured Image – Trafford Council