by Julie Redpath

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis the need for our National Lottery funded Tomorrows Project has never been greater. This year people’s lives have been significantly impacted due to the pandemic. It has been a scary and daunting time for so many people, especially those with a learning disability who can find changes to their lives and routines difficult to understand.

The majority of people who are supported by the project don’t have family networks or any formal support, so they are generally very socially isolated. If you then add lockdown measures and shielding into the equation people become even more isolated, frightened and extremely vulnerable.

At the onset of the COVID crisis we recognised that so many people would have difficulties understanding the virus and understanding how to stay safe, especially those who needed to shield for health reasons. We knew we had to ensure that all of our members had access to appropriate information and the right equipment to enable them to live as independently and safely as possible.  Our team devised Easy Read literature which was distributed to people and then followed up with a phone call to talk through the guidelines on how to stay safe.

We witnessed so many of our members being terrified to leave their house, even to sit in their own garden. We also witnessed others who were walking the streets looking for people to talk to, unaware of the danger to their health. The project adapted quickly and the team started making daily phone calls to offer extra guidance and reassurance. For those who were really struggling, we offered wellbeing checks, supported people to get out for regular walks and even took our dogs along to cheer people up!

For those who were shielding, we collected prescriptions, arranged emergency food parcels and went shopping for food supplies. This regular contact not only helped us to keep an eye on people’s health and wellbeing, but was also crucial to preventing further social isolation and reducing anxieties.

We know that many of the people who access our social activities see them as a lifeline, so when they all had to stop during lockdown people lost their regular routine and the opportunity to spend time with their friends, which we knew would impact on their mental health. To combat this we decided to move some of our activities online to help keep people connected. We were very fortunate to receive support from the Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner and North Tyneside Council’s Assistive Technology Team so that we could provide people with tablet devices.

Our team set up the devices, provided demonstrations and even produced EasyRead tutorials to make sure everyone was able to use the equipment. For the last few months now we have been using Zoom to run our Northern Notes music group session and also our weekly #BigConversation, which have both been really successful. We even recorded our Christmas Carol Service online this year!

It has certainly been a challenging year, and at times it’s been really tough to see so many of our members struggling. Thankfully the Tomorrows Project has been able to adapt and has been there to keep supporting people through this difficult period. The project has never been more needed. I am so proud of the Tomorrows team and the work they have undertaken during these unprecedented times. The support and dedication they have shown and the difference they have made to people’s lives is second to none!

To find out more about the Tomorrows Project click HERE to read our latest Impact Report.

#EndLoneliness #NeverMoreNeeded