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Apart but together - How technology helped one man with learning disabilities get connected

Nicholas seeing his parents for the first time in weeks using a video call. Published Wednesday, 13th May 2020

From the start of the Covid-19 Lockdown many people in Supported Living have had to adjust to staying in their homes.

Technology is proving a great way to help them do that. 

One of those using modern technology to help him through lockdown, is Nicholas Watkins from Bromsgrove, who really struggled with being isolated within his flat and missed his family. 

Although he has learning disabilities, Nicholas lives in his own place, with the help of MacIntyre Supported Living Team, commissioned by Worcestershire County Council. He is normally very sociable, has volunteered in a hospice for 15 years and loves gardening.  He has regular visits from his parents who are very supportive and enjoys meeting up with his friends and colleagues. 

Nicholas’s support worker, Jade Parker realised Nicholas wasn’t coping very well having to stay at home. His brother sent him an iPad and helped him install Wi-Fi. 

Together with some simple step by step instructions, Nicholas was able to learn how to make and take a video call.
Jade who works for McIntyre said: “The first call was a success and very emotional. Nicholas was able to have virtual contact with his parents.  We could see him starting to relax knowing he could still see his Mum and Dad, who he missed dearly.

“I am so proud of Nicholas learning a new skill during this difficult time!” 

“He celebrated his 52nd birthday and showed off his new skills with group video calls to his parents and support team. We all sang happy birthday and ate cake! Apart but together.”

Over the last few months Jade has been working with Nikki Stearman from Worcestershire County Council’s Adult Learning Team and realised there could be a course Nicholas could access using the technology and his new skills. 

Nikki said: “We’ve had to change our approach to delivering courses and learning during the lockdown. This has meant switching to using online packages such as Zoom.  What we now realise is this can help lots of people who don’t normally access our courses like Nicholas.  

“Our courses take place over a week, at the same time each day. They can help tackle isolation and loneliness by offering a sociable place for people to meet as well as learning new skills, such as learning to draw, speaking a different language or even ‘how to apply for a job online, all in a safe way.” 

Worcestershire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Adrian Hardman added: “This virus has presented many challenges for people especially those with learning disabilities, but with support they have risen to that challenge and experienced some huge strides forward. This is also a fantastic example of where our council services can work together to provide a really positive outcome.  I hope going forward more people with learning disabilities will be able to access courses from our Adult Learning Team and stay connected.”

These new skills have made a huge difference to Nicholas’s wellbeing.  He is keen to keep learning and looking forward to learning how to use different platforms to connect with even more of his friends in the future.