HEART of England Mencap is part of a major national project aiming to reduce isolation amongst some of the most vulnerable members of our community and tackle digital inequality highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The charity, which supports around 200 people with a learning disability across south Warwickshire and north Worcestershire, will receive funding to access equipment and training to help people to better connect online.

The project – Let’s Get Digital – is being spearheaded by the Royal Mencap Society, with funding from the Pears Foundation, National Lottery and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

As a project partner, Heart of England Mencap is taking the opportunity to participate to reduce the inequalities that exist for people with learning disabilities, and to increase the knowledge and skills of the people it supports and its staff, so that in the future all opportunities are accessible.

Chief Executive Helena Wallis said: “One of the many challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted across our communities includes the inequalities that have been faced by different people, including those with a learning disability.

“Further lockdowns and continued restrictions placed on society has reduced and limited opportunities to engage in face-to-face interactions and many community activities have been reduced or even stopped.  We have seen the increased reliance on virtual connectivity, but there are a number of barriers people face to access online provision during these ongoing restrictions.”

Those barriers include:

  • People not having equipment to use
  • Lack of support and/or skills for people at home to get online
  • Staff and volunteers lacking skills and confidence to support people to get online, especially remotely.

Supported by £2,000 in funding and the provision of the devices to support connectivity through Let’s Get Digital, Heart of England Mencap will be establishing a group of Digital Champions from within its existing workforce. These individuals will be supported to develop skills and knowledge, enabling them to effectively mentor and support people accessing care and support from Heart of England Mencap to use technology confidently.

Let’s Get Digital will also enable Heart of England Mencap to access free resources that can be allocated to people who are participating, including 20 tablets with data cards funded for 6 months. Skills training that is specifically designed for people with a learning disability is being provided too.

“We need to recognise and acknowledge that digital connectivity will play an increasing part in the way that our society works and maybe the impact of the Covid pandemic has accelerated this,” Helena added.

“However, we also need to respond to the fact that there continues to be a wide range of members of society that do not have the resources or means to be able to take advantage of the opportunities available to them. This is a vital part of reducing social isolation, maintaining contacts with families and friends and offering wider opportunities to contribute to society. Social interaction can never be replaced, but by supporting people in the right way we can at least ensure they continue to be involved and engaged in their local communities.”