In these strange and uncertain times, it is becoming increasingly difficult for smaller charities to continue providing services to the people they support, especially when those services are usually delivered face-to-face.
LD:NorthEast is one of those charities. We are a local organisation that provides support to people with learning disabilities, difficulties and autism across the North of Tyne area, from birth right through to older life. Our vision is for the people we support to have the same rights, opportunities and quality of life as everyone else, and to be able to live their life to the full within their local community.
A big part of our work is providing community outreach services on an individual and group basis, and under normal circumstances we would be out and about supporting people to keep healthy and active, manage everyday tasks and spend time with their friends. We would also be running our projects like Tomorrows, which provides light touch support and social activities for people who are growing older and are often isolated, and Early Years, which provides support to pre-school children to learn and develop through play as well as opportunities to bring families together.
But right now, we need to work differently. The last few weeks haven’t been easy, but the amazing team here at LD:NorthEast have risen to the challenge. We’ve found ways to adapt our existing services and are working in partnership locally to make sure we’re supporting the most vulnerable people in our community.
We are still providing some direct support to people at home who absolutely couldn’t manage without it. We’re providing a lot of emotional support via daily phone calls and regular video calls via WhatsApp and FaceTime, which is really helping to keep people connected and reduce those feelings of loneliness and isolation. A lot of the team here are animal lovers and our pets have become a regular feature on our video chats – they really help to cheer people up! Where it can be done safely, we’re also supporting people to get outside for a much needed (socially-distanced) walk from home.
We’re doing our best to make the most of technology too and over the last couple of weeks our Early Years project has gone live online. Every weekday day, we’re running a short interactive session via Zoom for children to join in and they’ve been a big success so far. Activities have included ‘sign a story’, crafts and sing-a-longs, and the children have all loved seeing their friends.
We’re also working alongside North Tyneside Council and North Tyneside VODA as part of their Good Neighbours project. Anyone in the local area who is self-isolating and struggling to get access to essential food and medication can call the project hotline, and we arrange to do that shopping for them or pick up their prescription.