SUPPORTING ADULTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES IN THE WAKE OF COVID-19

Leeds is home to many highly valued organisations which support people with learning disabilities to live independent and equal lives.  In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, they have had to close their doors and quickly adapt their working methods in order to continue providing support, information and activities to their users.

Leep1 have been involved with our Tablet Lending Scheme in the past, working to help members gain NVQs in food hygiene and food preparation in their volunteer-run café while improving access to general digital skills training on subjects such as social media, paying for things online, and staying safe online.  This, combined with them also opening up a room in their building as a dedicated IT suite and receiving funding from the Online Centres Network, demonstrates that making sure that people with learning disabilities can gain access and know how to engage with the online world is a priority at Leep1 – one that has stood them in good stead for the current climate.

At a time of isolation and reduced opportunities to take part in everyday life, it’s important that alternative means of interaction are available to all.  With this in mind, Leep1 have set up their own Facebook group for users and are organising daily activities such as art, cooking, sign language, yoga and keeping fit, along with providing information and guidance on Covid-19.  These activities have also been enhanced by activities, check-ins and general support from Connect In The North, Purple Patch Arts, and People In Action, three other organisations in Leeds that support people with learning disabilities.

My favourite thing about this group is how we have all come together.  Even though we are all at home I feel like we are still at Leep1 and doing what we love!

This group is keeping me focused and in touch with the people in my life that matter.

They have also begun using Zoom to conduct daily group calls where users and staff can interact – a lifeline for so many.  And even their monthly club night held at Pryzm in Leeds has become a virtual club night thanks to digital technology and the skills to engage with it!

Now that I’ve borrowed an iPad to use at home and have set up Facebook and Zoom, I can still talk to people and live my life more like it was before we were in lockdown.

This approach is similar to what has been going on at another organisation we work with, Connect In The North.  Sarah Wheatley (Trainer Consultant) says:

A number of people with learning difficulties we work with live on their own. They feel quite isolated right now.

Before the Coronavirus isolated everyone, the groups we are in touch with had been attending digital inclusion workshops funded by 100% Digital Leeds.  These have given people the confidence to try different social networking sites and online platforms.

Once we’d introduced people to sites such as Zoom and Facebook video calls, people have gone onto use it with family and friends.  It’s what is keeping people going during this time.