Throughout the year, we worked with partners to innovate and improve our collective services within the restrictions in place. Digital technology and the redeployment of staff allowed us all to work in new ways that provided greater flexibility to our service delivery.
As with many other organisations, we had to rapidly switch much of our work to digital channels last year. Where possible, our staff moved to working from home and many of our services moved to online delivery. This technology provided increased flexibility to both our service delivery and the people that use our services. We will work with our partners to consider where it is appropriate to continue these ways of working into the future.
Over 46,000 outbound calls were made through the partnership’s ATEC24 (Assistive Technology Enabled Care 24) service. These calls provided an opportunity to check on individuals’ wellbeing, provide companionship and offer advice and support on coping with lockdown. Of those participating in a customer satisfaction survey, 96% felt the wellbeing phone calls during the pandemic had been helpful and enabled them to feel well-supported.
Wellbeing calls were also made to 457 people identified with dementia who were not receiving formal service involvement. These calls allowed a focus on wellbeing, including food/medication/shopping check, daily living activities, general wellbeing, and carer support, with advice and onward referrals provided as required.
Supporting people to stay active (long term conditions programme)
During the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was recognised that care home residents had reduced physical activity levels, leading to deconditioning and increased risk of falls. In response, a multi-disciplinary care home falls prevention support service was tested between May – October 2020 using the video-consulting platform ‘Near Me’. The aim was to support care home staff to reduce the risk of falls and increase physical activity during the pandemic. Nine care homes received support, resulting in a 61% reduction in reported falls.
We also continued to support people living with long term conditions, many of whom were shielding, through the Fit for Health physical activity programme, run in partnership with Edinburgh Leisure. While sports and leisure venues were closed, we used a pre-recorded Fit for Health class, coupled with motivational and wellbeing calls, to support people with long term conditions to stay active at home. The pre-recorded Fit for Health class was viewed over 4,000 times. A further two Fit for Health pre-recorded classes were made available to all participants in November 2020, with over 170 views in the first month. During December, we launched twice weekly live-streamed Fit for Health classes, which increased to three classes a week from January 2021. Live streaming allows for up to 24 people per week to access Fit for Health on a supported video platform where instructors provide live feedback to participants.
Case study – Steady Steps
Gwen and Arnold, both 91, were attending Steady Steps at the Craiglockhart Leisure Centre prior to lockdown in March 2020. Both were referred to Steady Steps by their physio after having serious falls around the home. During the pandemic, Gwen and Arnold continued their exercise through pre-recorded Steady Steps sessions initially, then live sessions over Zoom. They said:
“We believe the online videos have played an important role in maintaining our mobility, strength, and balance, it gave us structure to our week during the long months of isolation. The fact that we knew [the Steady Steps instructor] beforehand and having that continuity of seeing a familiar face made the online class so enjoyable. It was like having an old friend in the living room with us.”
As a result of Steady Steps online support, Gwen and Arnold have continued to be active during lockdown. They are feeling physically and mentally stronger and the classes have provided an opportunity to socialise with others.
With many of our services, including older people’s day services, having to pause in-person support during the pandemic, our providers have continued to support as many people as possible using digital means to connect with service users. This included the use of virtual groups, where individuals could continue to meet and enjoy activities together online, and online events like presentations on various subjects.
Case Study – Online support from day service providers
Prior to the pandemic, Michael was retired and providing care for his wife who was living with dementia and attending a day service once per week. At the start of lockdown, the day service provider offered a wellbeing call once a week, which Michael took as his wife was unable too. When the provider began offering virtual support groups, Michael signed himself and his wife up to three different groups. They both looked forward to the interaction with staff and other participants.
Unfortunately, Michael’s wife went into hospital and subsequently passed away. As the family were quite far away, the provider encouraged Michael to continue using the groups for socialisation and to help minimise his isolation and loneliness.
Michael has since been working with the provider to form a carers group, as he had enjoyed connecting with the other carers in the groups so much. This has kept him busy and provided a place where he can continue to talk about his wife.
For those without digital access, support was available from many of the organisations that we fund through our grants programme. These organisations were quick to assist those that needed help in making the transition to the use of digital technology.
Case Study – Golden Years digital inclusion service
Danny is 66 years old. He recently moved into a new flat provided by City of Edinburgh Council. Before that, he lived in veterans housing but had lost contact with the residents of the veterans’ home and was feeling increasingly isolated. Due to the restrictions caused by the covid-19 pandemic he was unable to meet his social worker and his only daughter lives abroad. Danny spends all his time alone at home, only occasionally going to the local shop, but is not confident doing this due to the covid-19 situation.
Danny was referred to Golden Years digital inclusion service by Family Housing Support. The service provided him with a Chromebook and training to support him to set up and use the device. Danny feels less isolated now, enjoying weekly meetings with both his daughter and social worker. He is also able to access online shopping, banking and healthcare services, connect with his friends online and further develop his hobbies despite the restrictions brought on by the pandemic.
ATEC24’s Sheltered Housing Support Service have also recently purchased technological devices, tablets and keyboards for each of the Sheltered Housing schemes with community rooms, using community benefit funding from Utilita. These devices will enable citizens to interact with services online including ordering repeat prescriptions and attending medical appointments using the Near Me initiative. Building their confidence with these devices also allowed citizens to use social media, email or video calls as a means of maintaining connections with family or friends they are unable to see in person, reducing the negative impact of isolation from the pandemic restrictions.
 Name has been changed.
 Name has been changed.