The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced today that 13 charities that help autistic people, disabled people and those with a learning disability who are struggling with the effects of the pandemic will benefit from £2.4m of additional Government funding.
The money will support people of all ages to improve their physical and mental wellbeing by funding services to provide practical support for disabled children, set up and expand helplines, provide mental health and wellbeing support for both staff and disabled people and support advocacy.
This follows the £1.2m fund given to charities in July 2020 to provide COVID-19 support.
The new funding will support the important work these 13 charities are doing to help people affected by the pandemic, including:
- Practical support is being offered to disabled children and their families, such as distributing sensory equipment and play at home kits, as well as virtual education, learning and play opportunities.
- Helplines have been set up or expanded to provide information and expert, tailored advice to support disabled people and their families throughout the pandemic as well as COVID-19-specific digital resources, including to ensure disabled people understand their eligibility for the vaccine.
- Charities have provided online courses and wellbeing calls to support the emotional and mental wellbeing of disabled people and provide virtual support to reduce social isolation during the pandemic.
- Frontline staff working with disabled children and adults have had their wellbeing and resilience supported, including through qualifications in Positive Behaviour Support to help those working with people who have the most complex needs.
- The advocacy sector has also been boosted to support those seeking to access advocacy services to ensure disabled people and their families and carers are able to make their voices heard.
The funding has been awarded to charities uniquely placed to provide national support to many disabled people for needs arising as a direct result of the pandemic. They include: Sense, RNIB, RNID, NDTi, Scope, Leonard Cheshire, Mencap, National Autistic Society, British Institute of Learning Disability, Contact, Respond, Learning Disability England and Challenging Behaviour Foundation.
In July 2020, a £1.2 million grant was provided to seven learning disability and autism organisations to provide direct COVID-19 support to individuals, families and carers during the first wave. This latest funding is an extension to this, and to ensure the support reaches as many people as possible it has been extended to six more charities providing services across England.
This funding is for work which has had a significant positive impact on autistic people, disabled people and those with a learning disability, as well as their families and carers.
One of the projects run through the charity Sense has provided over 1,000 arts, sports and wellbeing kits to disabled children, families and adults to help support them through the pandemic.
Leonard Cheshire has supported 1,700 young disabled people since April 2020, delivering over 200 virtual sessions to combat loneliness. This was particularly effective between academic terms and ensured regular engagement avoids any break in routines which can exacerbate existing anxiety and mental health issues.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately, said, 'I know this last year has been a particularly difficult time for disabled people, autistic people and those with a learning disability. COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on them and we are doubling our investment in this fund to ensure people of all ages receive advice and support. It will help vital charities offer projects which are improving the physical and mental wellbeing of thousands every day.'
Jamie Dormandy, RNIB’s Head of Advice and Customer Service, said, ‘During the pandemic and various national lockdowns, people with sight loss have faced additional concerns and practical challenges, from how to practise social distancing to how to connect with others online.
‘In response, RNIB has supported thousands of people with advice via our Helpline and online, and connected people to local sources of support and groups running online and over the phone. We are very pleased that DHSC has recognised the additional impact the pandemic has had on blind and partially sighted people and the role RNIB has played in providing vital support.’
In the latest issue of CMM Magazine, Michael Fullerton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Achieve together, says now is the time to empower, not marginalise, people with learning disabilities. Read his column and share your comments.