VALUES project tackles lockdown isolation in people with learning disabilities

A person with learning disabilities receiving a Facebook Portal and using it for the first time

Thanks to funding and support from Mencap and Sport England via the Tackling Inequalities Fund, the VALUES Project has been able to provide six of its clients with Facebook Portals and Wi-Fi access for six months. Those clients had no access to virtual tools and a few have only had limited phone contact since the first lockdown. The Tackling Inequalities Fund focuses on keeping people active, and the new Facebook Portals will be used for virtual keep-fit sessions.

The VALUES Project has been helping people in Leicester with learning disabilities to have fun, make friends and learn new skills for over 20 years. During the pandemic the project has delivered dozens of virtual group sessions every week, enabling clients to take part in fun and educational activities whilst also providing much-needed respite for families and carers.

The project was able to return to delivering COVID-safe face-to-face services for a time, but the new national lockdown restrictions have forced them to reduce client contact to a very limited number of one-to-one sessions. This leaves many people with learning disabilities vulnerable and isolated. One VALUES client, David, had struggled to keep communicating with his friends or support workers because his mobile phone had broken at the beginning of the first lockdown.

Mikaela Paterson, Team Manager for the VALUES Project, said:

People with learning disabilities are some of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Lots of them are shielding and unable to go outside, and some don’t fully understand why they’re not able to go out and do the things they usually love doing.

It’s been amazing to see people connect through video calls when they were so isolated before. They are able to see their friends as well as taking part in sessions like dancing and exercising. It’s important in keeping people physically and mentally healthy during these difficult times.

Jon Stonebridge, Project Manager for Mencap, said:

We are delighted to be able help support VALUES with Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities fund. At this time physical and mental health are so important for people who are at risk.

The funding has enabled VALUES to support their clients during the pandemic to continue taking part in physical activity at home and to maintain contact with their friends which helps with fitness levels and feelings of isolation.

To find out more about what VALUES does, you can visit the VALUES main page.

VALUES reopens support service to combat isolation in people with learning disabilities

For over 20 years the VALUES Project has offered people with learning disabilities an opportunity to get out of the house, make friends and take part in fun activities. Through group activities ranging from ten pin bowling to music or maths and English lessons, VALUES has been a core part of daily life for many of its clients and helps them to avoid loneliness and isolation. Clients can pay for VALUES with their social care personal budgets, which means they get to choose which sessions they want to do.

In March, the service had to make the difficult decision to close to both new and existing clients during the lockdown. However, the resourceful VALUES staff team moved to delivering some of their sessions virtually, helping their existing clients to feel less isolated and giving them opportunities to see their friends and take part in group activities.

Now VALUES has reopened, with COVID-safe measures in place throughout their base on Newarke Street in Leicester to ensure the safety and health of all of their clients.

Mikaela Paterson, VALUES Team Manager, said:

“We’re really happy to be open again and doing some fun group sessions. We know from talking to our clients during the lockdown that lots of them have missed being a part of VALUES, doing their favourite activities and seeing their friends. It’s been especially hard for some who don’t fully understand why they can’t just come in and do all of the things they usually do with us.

VALUES is currently one of the few services in Leicester that’s open and offering group services. We’ve worked really hard and made lots of changes to how we run sessions, put in lots of COVID-safe processes and changed the types of sessions we run to make sure everybody is safe and happy.”

The VALUES learning disability support service is taking referrals for new clients. If you want to refer somebody to the service, or if you want to find out more about what VALUES does, you can visit the VALUES page or contact Mikaela from VALUES directly:
0116 257 5044

VALUES service delivers virtual sessions during lockdown

Like most face-to-face support services, our VALUES Learning Disability service had to close its doors to new and existing clients at the beginning of the lockdown.

While it was a hard decision to take, particularly since many VALUES clients enjoy the opportunity to socialise and be a part of a fun community, it was the only decision the service could possibly make for the safety of both its clients and its staff.

Since then, the VALUES team has worked hard to find ways to continue supporting existing clients. The team have adapted quickly and started delivering virtual sessions to make sure clients still have an opportunity to interact with each other and with support staff.

So far they’ve delivered maths and English sessions over virtual chat, and even ran the drama group online! They have also done singing, dancing, PE with Joe Wicks, art, photography and the disco.

VALUES client Tom said:

Thank you for carrying on the activities in a video calls it was weird at first but getting used to it…. I had lots of fun. it was really great to see my friends and the support (staff).

The service also had excellent feedback from the parents of another VALUES client, Punit. They were very happy and appreciative that VALUES was keeping in touch with clients, especially because some of them are still confused with what’s happening.

VALUES Manager Mikaela Paterson said:

Sometimes it gets difficult for Punit to understand and he gets angry, so I told them that I don’t mind talking to Punit any time he wants to chat. They thanked us for providing this kind of service which no other organisations are doing.

Being able to support people virtually isn’t just about keeping busy. Keeping a sense of routine and socialising is very important for people’s mental health and has a knock-on effect on behaviour that family members really notice. Family members are also appreciating having someone to talk to, but more than that we are also able to help some families by collecting food and medication for them when they are unable.

VALUES will continue adding more sessions to its virtual offering and more and more clients are now joining them as VALUES staff are able to help clients and their families set up the technology to get involved.

You can see more about these sessions on the VALUES Facebook page, or if you want to know more about what VALUES does, you can contact Mikaela Paterson directly on:
0116 257 5044

VALUES launches Mencap Round the World event

The Round the World Challenge is a way to get people with learning disabilities more active while reducing their isolation. Hours doing physical activity are converted to miles and people make their way around the UK, Europe and the World, depending which challenge they choose.

The launch event was attended by a large number of adults with a learning disability. Leicester Tigers coaches provided a range of activities for people to try including rugby, basketball and archery. It marks the start of a weekly multi-sports session run by VALUES, with coaching from Tigers coaching staff.

Leicester Tigers Player Harry Wells came along to the launch event to show his support. He said:

It’s great to see anyone getting involved in sport and there’s a real sense of community here.

Katie attended the event and was very excited to meet Harry Wells. She said:

The people here welcome you with open arms and they don’t judge you.

Russell, who has been with VALUES over 20 years also attended:

My favourite sport is basketball – I’ve had lots of support here and it’s a positive place for making friends.

Mikaela Paterson, one of the VALUES Team Managers, organised and attended the event. She said:

“The launch was really well attended and it’s great to see people being active, having fun and making new friends. Sports helps to tackle isolation and increase self-esteem as well as getting you fit. That’s something that should be accessible to everyone.”

VALUES runs a weekly multi-sports session on Wednesdays, 2.30-4pm, at Aylestone Leisure Centre. The session is £5 and attendees can bring their own support for free.

If you would like to know more about how VALUES can provide direct support or you want more information then call us on 0116 2575044.