Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ben loved going to Reach and seeing his friends.
During times of lockdown and social restrictions, Ben became anxious about Coronavirus – he watched the news regularly for updates about the changing situation. Ben said he was lost because the lockdowns disrupted his normal routine, which is very important to him. Not seeing his friends or Reach staff made him feel sad and lonely.
Ben’s mum, Hazel, felt the difference in Ben’s behaviour when his routine changed. She was concerned about the lack of structure due to lockdowns and worried that Ben would not want to come out of his bedroom.
To support clients like Ben over the last year, Reach staff made regular welfare calls to people to help them stay connected and provided support on how to use online platforms like Zoom. This meant that Ben could continue to take part in structured online learning and social activities. With Reach’s support and Hazel’s encouragement, Ben learned to use the house phone and the laptop. Hazel was amazed when he began turning on the laptop and accessing Zoom sessions himself. He quickly became able to do the full process from start to finish independently and would tell his sister all about his online sessions - he enjoyed having something to talk about.
Ben said that Zoom took the sad feeling away because he got to keep in touch with his friends online. He even requested that calls from support staff were changed to Zoom, as it was another opportunity for him to see and connect with someone he knew and trusted.
Ben joined Reach’s online sessions at every opportunity, taking part in classes like Relaxation, Sit and Be Fit and Bingo. He also enjoyed the Friday morning Zoom social session which allowed him to chat with his friends. As his confidence grew and his digital skills developed, in his spare time he began accessing YouTube, Facebook and some typing clubs to practise his typing.
Even when Reach centres reopened safely in line with government guidance, Ben did not feel confident enough to come back because he still felt anxious about the risk of infection from Covid-19. Because Reach continued to offer a ‘blended’ service of face-to-face and online services even after the centres reopened, Ben was able to stay in touch with his friends at Reach and continue to access services.
Hazel noticed the positive impact that gaining online skills and staying connected has had on Ben.
“Reach’s online sessions have become a huge part of Ben’s life,” Hazel said. “They have given him structure and something to look forward to. As soon as he sees the first person join the Zoom call, his whole mood changes – it has been so good for him while he has had to stay at home. Zooming with Reach has truly been a godsend as it has made Ben happy again.”
By supporting our Big Give Christmas Challenge appeal your donation could be doubled. Help Reach to support local people with learning disabilities to feel happier and healthier through online learning and social activities.