Ronnie Grocock and Gerry Corbett are Senior Care and Support Workers who work with people with learning disabilities. They got in touch to share some of their experiences of working during the pandemic.

Screen shots of people using Microsoft Teams to take part in activities with friends

Staff and people who use our learning disability services enjoying virtual groups and activities during lockdown.

Lockdown was a shock for all of us. In our day support services for people with learning disabilities, we quickly recognised that staying in contact by telephone wasn’t always meeting the needs of those we support. One of the main things missing was social interaction and the ability to see each other. We came up with the idea of ‘Stay Connected’ and through Microsoft Teams we have been delivering this.

The team have developed a number of groups that run throughout the day, including a breakfast club and groups such as ‘play you cards right’, sing-a-long and Zumba. We are now running up to 26 classes over the week. We are delighted to have just heard that we have been awarded 22 devices from the Scottish Government to help even more people access this new way of support.

Our groups have been really successful and we have even had some of the people we support leading the groups – one person in particular is always keen to lead the Zumba class!

We asked the people taking part what they liked about the online groups – the main answer was ‘seeing friends’.

An added bonus with ‘Stay Connected’ is you can jump into these groups wherever you are. People have been joining us when they are out and about in their local area, someone even tuned in while on a visit to London!

It’s been a great platform to also stay connected with carers and family members with many offering to take an active part in some classes and support us along the way. It has also been crucial in offering our carers a vital break from their unpaid caring role – even joining in with the groups carers feel it gives them a break from what has become their daily routine. Feedback we recently received was, ‘it’s great, I can go off and have some time to myself knowing that my brother is engaged and involved without me having to support him’.

Admittedly, it’s not all been plain sailing – It took a lot of setting up and encouragement for people to get used to being supported online. The staff team had very little knowledge of using Teams so were daunted by the thought of working in this way but everyone was committed to making it work and have really done a fantastic job. We recently discussed how far everyone had come in a very short space of time and everyone was full of pride. The team has put their fears and anxieties to one side and invited people in to their homes to develop something that offers support, fun and maintains relationships, which is what ‘Stay Connected’ is all about.

It has become even more poignant over the last couple of weeks when sadly one of the people we supported passed away. Connecting digitally enabled us to share this news face to face with those who had a close relationship to the person and we held an online memorial with 15 people in attendance. This support has been invaluable during this time and has really shown how we can all adapt in challenging times.