Making new friends in lockdown

This year, Learning Disability Week is all about friendship… something we must all work hard at during the peculiar times we live in. Indeed, over three quarters of the people we support have told us that they worry about not being able to see friends and family.

Says Jordan Smith, Dimensions Health Equalities Lead, “Of course, life in the time of coronavirus has been difficult for everyone. But the disturbance to daily routine, and not being able to see loved ones has affected people with learning disabilities in a significant way. Lots of us have struggled to understand the sudden changes and why we can’t see our family and friends.”

This need for greater human contact should not overshadow the fantastic role played by our support teams. Fully 9 in 10 of the people we support told us that their support workers have helped them stay safe, and 8 in 10 said their support workers have helped them understand what they can and cannot do – helping people hold onto a sense of independence and confidence.

And as everyone spends more time inside, support teams have come up with creative new ways to keep the people we support active and entertained. 72% of respondents told us their support teams have helped them try new things and 69% said that their support teams have helped them stay in touch with the people they care about. Suffice to say, one of the positive outcomes of Coronavirus is far greater digital inclusion amongst the people we support.

To support people with friendship, Jordan, together with expert by experience Dr Mark Brookes MBE, have imagined and created a Dimensions ‘Staying in Touch’ club, which offers an increasingly wide range of online activities and clubs for the people we support to join, based on what they told us they wanted.

Since the Staying in Touch website went live at the end of May, take-up has been high, with lots of people we support eager to get involved in activities they’ve been missing and meet new friends. There are nine scheduled ‘club’ activities on offer, with places between 5-10 people for each. The project is proving popular with additional activities being scheduled and more people joining each week

.Looking forwards, two thirds of the people we support told us they are worried about not knowing when things will go back to ‘normal.’ There’s still a long way to go and a lot more great innovative practice needed from our support teams between now and when the restrictions are completely eased. Projects like Staying In Touch are making a difference. Thank you to all our #Coronaheroes and Happy #LearningDisabilityWeek!