Jan 27, 2021

VALUES tackles lockdown isolation with new tech!

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.

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 www.valonline.org.uk/values

Oct 1, 2020

Music to our ears - a special request

Make-shift drums
Make-shift drums

COVID-19 hit VALUES hard. Our clients, who all have a learning disability were suddenly told they could no longer attend the service. VALUES is their means of socialising, learning, volunteering and leisure time. It is a source of identify and routine. We did what we could through video calls for 5 months before we started to get back to gradually opening up sessions in person again.  

Great. However, COVID is still affecting us. Many of our sessions have had to change to make way for social distancing, closed facilities, and the rule of 6. One of the things we still can't do safely is sing with each other, which was one of our favourite sessions. We are a resourceful bunch and have got around this by making music instead. The only thing is we have one guitar (and that has a string missing!), a slightly broken drum and some pots and pans. We need more instruments! 

A class room pack of instruments costs just £149. This would allow everyone in each session to a choice of instruments, without the need for any sharing. This range of percussion instruments are all easy to play at beginner level so that everyone, no matter their ability could join in, make music and have fun.  

You can help us, just a few small donations will soon get us to our target and allow us to bring the joy of making music to people with a learning disability. (We will also buy a new guitar string!)  

Please make a small donation If you can. Thank you.

Broken guitar
Broken guitar
Jun 3, 2020

Lockdown Doesn't Stop VALUES

Fun virtual session
Fun virtual session

VALUES Lockdown Successes

When we went into lockdown back in March VALUES (Voluntary Action LeicesterShire) had a decision to make. Furlough all our staff and wait for restrictions to be lifted again or find a way to help the people we work with through this tough time. We couldn’t leave our clients without support so we started calling them to explain what was happening and check they were OK. Quickly it dawned on us that we could set up group video calls and do many of the activities that we would normally do. The tricky part was working out which platform to do it on. We wanted something that people already knew, something without a time limit and with the capacity for our usual size groups, so we settled on Facebook Messenger video service.

Its taken a lot of hard work from all the VALUES staff to get everything up and running including setting up Facebook accounts for some people and working out new activities that work well on virtual sessions. But after a few weeks we had ironed out most of the creases. We have been able to continue singing and drama groups virtually as well as adapting our English and Maths sessions to be done virtually. Our staff have been running a lot of quizzes with their groups as well as online games and word games. We have found a way to run our disco virtually. Social events group are still planning upcoming events, including the online quiz we did, which was open to all our clients and staff.

We have loved being able to put a smile on people’s faces and see them through video calls. It’s also been great to see that clients have been contacting each other outside of our sessions through Facebook to keep in touch. That’s going to be a lasting legacy of lockdown. Putting a bit of routine back into people’s lives while they are still in lockdown has been invaluable for lots of our clients, not least those on the autistic spectrum. Our service continues to provide some respite for families and care-givers by giving the VALUES client a focus away from their families. Of course the clients are enjoying their activities with us, but it’s also keeping their minds sharp, especially answering maths problems and quiz questions.

Of course, not everyone is able to get online. We have continued to offer phone calls for those who prefer. Some just want a quick chat and others want to sing, dance, and play games over the phone. We just do what each person wants!

There are a few people that have needed more support from us and we will always do everything we can for our clients and their families. Some families needed help to get food and medication so we have been making deliveries where needed. We have also started offering social distancing walks for those who are very isolated or most at risk of family break down.

Now that restrictions are beginning to be lifted we are looking at what a return to the building will look like. Instead of just looking at temporary restrictions that we will need to put in place we are seeing this as an exciting opportunity to improve the VALUES service for long term. One of the changes we need to put in place is to ensure that every activity room we use is stocked with all the art equipment, games, puzzles and other equipment needed to reduce movement around the building. Therefore we, if you are able to donate to VALUES through GlobalGiving or with any equipment, this is a great time to do it.

Thank you for your ongoing support of this important project.

One to one learning
One to one learning
Group  session
Group session
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