VALUES project tackles lockdown isolation in people with learning disabilities

The VALUES Project, run by Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL), is helping to keep people with learning disabilities connected during the new lockdown by providing Facebook Portals to allow their most isolated clients to keep in touch.

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.