Learning Disability Week – 15-21 June

A significant number of people with learning disabilities have been facing an increased level of isolation during the coronavirus lockdown because they can’t access the internet.

25% of people with learning disabilities, supported by Sussex-based, national voluntary befriending programme Gig Buddies, are locked out of the digital connection that so many of us are using to stay in touch with friends.

This Learning Disability Week (15-21 June) is exploring the importance of friendships during lockdown. Gig Buddies is running an emergency appeal during the week (and beyond), to help their participants that don’t currently have access to the internet get online.

Every donation will help to provide a smartphone to someone with a learning disability, helping them stay in touch with friends and giving them access to Gig Buddies’ online community.

Although lockdown restrictions are lifting, people living with a learning disability are not alone in feeling confused and anxious about the new rules and how they apply to them. They are also impacted by having a higher risk of respiratory issues, may be dependent on carers and those in supported living accommodation are subject to the Government’s more stringent protection measures that apply to care homes. Being connected digitally will continue to play a major role in tackling the isolation that people with learning disabilities felt even before lockdown began.

Paul Richards, Director of Gig Buddies, said: “The Coronavirus crisis has highlighted bigger inequalities for people with a learning disability who aren’t online. While many of us are staying connected with our communities online, people with learning disabilities are more cut off from society than ever before.

“Without access to the internet, a time like this is a very lonely place to be. Especially if you already know what it feels like to be socially isolated because you rely on a support worker to access the outside world.”

Gig Buddies is a programme by national charity, Stay Up Late, that supports people with learning disabilities to see live music through their volunteering befriending service.  In response to the coronavirus lockdown, the charity has brought many of its services online including; virtual coffee mornings, art clubs, evening socials and @Coronavirusfest – a virtual music festival to keep their beneficiaries, supporters and general public connected through music.

Case studies: Daniel (44) and Darren (54), Hastings
Getting online has opened up a whole new world for Daniel and totally transformed his experience of being in lockdown. Since being online, Daniel and Darren have been able to share laughs again together.

Daniel said: “I felt frustrated and even more isolated at the beginning of lockdown but now that I can see my friends, I feel like I’m in the room and not cut off and bored anymore. Getting online can really help you stay connected to your friends, to stay positive and not get depressed.”

The first thing Daniel and Darren are going to do together once lockdown lifts is have a BBQ and dance to Slade on the beach.

For more information on Gig Buddies and to donate to their Emergency Appeal, visit their website here.

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