For Winchester Go LD, lockdown hugely disrupted the community they’d built for their members. With the help of Energise Me’s Investing in Communities project, they launched ‘Walk and Talk’ to help their members feel connected and be active.
Winchester Go LD is a charity that supports adults with learning disabilities in Winchester. They normally run various activities including drop-ins, funky lunch, afternoon teas and low-level circuits.
Lockdown turned the lives of many of Winchester Go LD members on their heads. With Winchester Go LD activities cancelled it saw busy social schedules change.
From semi-independent living, some members had to move in with their families. This was to ensure companionship, stability, a routine and practical support. Many members did not have smartphones either. This put the sense of community built up through Winchester Go LD at risk of being lost.
Many members struggled to adjust and missed their normal routines. They also found it difficult to understand why their lives had been so disrupted to remain safe.
“Lockdown with learning disabilities is a very hard pill to swallow and we totally admire the dedication of all the care staff who are trying to do their very best under these extremely difficult circumstances.”
Philippa, Mum of a Winchester Go LD member.
Winchester Go LD response to lockdowns
Winchester Go LD knew they needed to provide activities for their members, even if these had to be online. With routine being important they set up online activities matching their normal timetable. They organised online interactive drop-in groups. And they set up a Go LD WhatsApp friendship group, all so members did not lose their sense of community.
For many of the members and their families, these activities gave vital support during a difficult time.
“We feel fortunate to have a ‘life-line’ in Winchester Go LD. The staff have continued giving support and created a sense of continuity for the members by setting up online activities”
Lucy, mum of a Winchester Go LD member.
“Winchester Go LD continues to be incredible at maintaining friendships, routine, a sense of normality and care”
Betty, sister of a Winchester Go LD member.
Investing in Communities
Winchester Go LD was unable to provide face to face support at its offices. Weekly circuits classes delivered with a local centre were also cancelled.
Keen to adapt and be creative the charity approached Energise Me. Inspired by another local group they had an idea for providing support services in a more active way.
Energise Me helped Winchester Go LD access funding through Investing in Communities. As restrictions lifted, with Sport England’s support, they launched ‘Walk and Talk’.
The aim of this project is to enable members to meet volunteers and go for walks around Winchester. A choice of walking routes means they can cater for different needs and abilities. Or if a member is not comfortable leaving their home, for example, they can do a Garden Talk.
One member, Anna, even started running during lockdown. She now has a ‘Run and Talk’ hour session which supports both her mental and physical well-being.
I feel much better, having a run takes the stress out of me.
Anna, Winchester Go LD member
[I’m feeling] Very happy - it's good to talk things through with someone.
Louise, Winchester Go LD member
Impact on community
‘Walk & Talk’ enabled Winchester Go LD to connect with its members at this challenging time. It gave the charity a vital way of providing them with support and the chance to socialise.
The project allowed Winchester Go LD to check in with members and identify problems. It reduced the risk of isolation and gave members comfort and reassurance. Also encouraging them to do regular physical activity. This has been essential for people’s wellbeing. Members have been much happier and more relaxed after their walks.
Both members and volunteers have given positive feedback and are enjoying the walks.
A focus of the project was to build confidence and familiarity with set walking routes. The aim was to help members form a habit and enable them to do the walks on their own, with family or friends.
By being out and about and on social media the project also helped increase the charity’s profile. And, with funding from Alresford Pigs, they have now been able to take ‘Walk & Talk’ beyond Winchester too