Southampton Day Services Online Activity sessions boost social interactions

Supporting the importance of friendships this learning disability week.

Digital Day Services

This Learning Disability Week, Southampton City Council is supporting the importance of friendships during lockdown to help tackle isolation, as well helping people maintain their friendships during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Learning Disability Week 2020 takes place online from 15 to 21 June. People with learning disabilities already experience high levels of loneliness and social isolation and this will only have been made worse by the lockdown, with many people with learning disabilities isolating or shielding and unable to see friends or family members.

Southampton Day Services, which provides support for adults with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and mental health made the decision to temporarily close their centres in March, to ensure the safety of attendees. The staff at the centres have been helping to combat social isolation amongst their users by putting on online activity sessions so they can keep in touch with friends.

Sessions are delivered twice-daily by video conference call, mirroring their usual scheduled activities. This is enabling day service attendees to still participate in their usual activities such as aerobics, music appreciation, makaton, yoga, art, cookery and quizzes, from the safety of their own home.

Paul Smith, Project Officer for Southampton Day Services, said: “A lot of the people who attend our centres have been isolating during the COVID-19 outbreak due to pre-existing conditions. Originally, when I set up these sessions it was more about connecting with them and seeing that everyone was ok. It was really good for them to see the faces of their friends and the people they see on a regular basis. Everyone enjoyed it so much we now have a weekly rota, delivering two sessions per day in which our staff and I have set up sessions including quizzes such as play your cards right, guess the logo and the mystery bag game, and we even have a baking session with a member of staff set up in their kitchen.

“I ran a session based on mental health, I started a discussion about how we are all feeling, it was really successful, and all of the attendees opened up about how much they miss their friends and miss not coming to Day Services.

“I also managed to get a service user on Zoom for the first time, helped them over the phone to download it the day before her birthday so that she could get to see her friends on her actual birthday, and we all sang Happy Birthday to her which was a really lovely moment”.

Debbie Lodwidge, mother of Lynsey Lodwidge who uses the day services, said: “Lynsey has been really happy when on the sessions with her friends, it has been a godsend and has really made her happy seeing all of her friends.”

Dermot Feely, Day Services Co-ordinator, said: “There have been so many positive responses from the residents we support and their family, carers and our own staff about delivering these activities. I joined an online session at the request of one of our service users, who like so many just want to see and know we are all still here for them, it was so good to see them.”

Councillor Lorna Fielker, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult care said: “Councillor Lorna Fielker, Cabinet Member for Health and Adults said: “It is great that we are using technology to find different and interesting ways to ensure our residents who face challenges because of a disability are able to continue to receive the support they need. Creating virtual environments where they can maintain their friendships and spend time with others has been really important during this period when they have not been able to meet in person due to the lockdown.”

Individuals are referred by a social worker or independence advisor to Southampton Day Services, for more information contact 023 8083 4750.

There will also be a host of support and events from the Council’s partners taking place for Learning Disability Week, and these include:

  • University Hospital Southampton have created an online community with a Facebook Learning Disability Forum to connect, support and inform patients about COVID-19 and other health-related issues. They are also reviewing the Hospital Passport system to check details are up to date and relevant should patients need to be admitted, which includes information around what extra provision might be needed, and any likes and dislikes that can help them manage the experience of being in hospital better.
  • Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust will be sharing resources on mental health, wellbeing, relationships, hospital passports, annual health checks, accessing NHS services and more.
  • Rose Road, a charity that provides services for over 300 children and young adults with severe physical disabilities, learning difficulties, and/or autism, in partnership with University Hospital Southampton will be helping young to obtain a Hospital Passport.
  • Windward Day Services will be running a timetable of Zoom events throughout Learning Disability Week including bingo, karaoke and quizzes.
  • Grow Project Day Service and support for adults with learning and physical disabilities are having a virtual Zoom party on Thursday 18 June, non-members are welcome.
  • Southampton Mencap, a voluntary organisation based in Portswood for children, young people and adults with a learning disability and their family carers will be encouraging ‘pen pal’ friendships.
  • Voiceability, Southampton City Councils provider of advocacy and involvement services will be focussing on how advocacy can help people with learning disabilities.

The following easy-read resources can help with getting online, staying in touch, maintaining friendships and keeping busy:

Staying in touch 


Keeping busy