In this feature, our Activities Team Leader, Huw, tells us about the online groups he has been hosting and how this helped the team maintain contact with the young adults accessing the services at Jacksplace, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keeping in touch with the young adults, has been vitally important during the COVID-19 restrictions. Because of the pandemic, our care team were unable to host the in-person weekly day service sessions, but by embracing technology, we’ve discovered new ways to keep the contact going.
Every Tuesday and Thursday we’ve hosted virtual Days at Jack’s, when young adults can chat and play games together from the comfort of their own homes. It was nice to have that link with them as some had hardly been out for the past year, as they had been shielding. We heard from the young adults themselves that it was really helpful and having the opportunity to socialise and play a variety of different games has been so important to them.
For our Tuesday group, we choose the games carefully to ensure the young adults don’t become overtired or confused. Some of their firm favourites are Frustration, Angry Birds in Space, Snakes and Ladders. In the past they played these games when they came into Jacksplace for the weekly day service sessions.
I put a camera onto a board game, and position it so they just see the board and my hands. They roll the dice at home and then I move the pieces around the board. We’ve even played Guess Who, which works really well if they have the game at home and I have one too. Bingo is also great fun and very straightforward; picking out the numbers and trying to find the number on their grid.
Parents are always close by and ready to get involved and it is so rewarding when we hear from them.
One got in touch and said:
Dear Huw, we love our 'meet up' with you, thank you so much. We have been loving the creative ideas coming through and the puzzle quiz, you are all so kind, sharing your brilliant store of activities and keeping my girl going. Looking forward to next Tuesday."
Our Thursday afternoon group particularly like to play all sorts of quiz board games like Trivial Pursuit, Logo game, Pointless, Best of British. There is a whole selection to choose from and our rule is that we can’t play the same game that we played the previous week. We choose as a democracy, so I get them to choose their favourites and the one that gets the most votes is the one we play. It works well and gives them the opportunity to choose what they want to do.
The online groups started in April 2020, just after the first lockdown began. All of the young adults were invited along, but not everyone is comfortable with that setting and there is no pressure for them to join in virtually. We generally got a core group of four or five people at each session, and they have really enjoyed seeing each other, as many of them haven’t been able to get out very much. They can’t wait to come back to Jacksplace.
I find the sessions very good. They're enjoyable and beneficial to me because it's keeping me up to date with friends and socialising with them. It's great seeing friends during this time.
As the restrictions have started to ease, we have been able to invite people back into Jacksplace again. So in addition to our online groups, we are starting up drop-in sessions and swim-club again and rotating between the three options.
I work with Martina from the family support team(read her blog here), and from August 2020 we started running a monthly Jacksplace Peer Support Group. This came about as a result of a conversation with one of the young people, who said they would find it useful to talk to others in a similar situation to them. We realised we needed to give the young adults the opportunity to talk to their peers about their own situations.
During the sessions, they talk about how they are doing and discuss any anxieties they may have, particularly during the pandemic and the lockdowns. They can discuss anything they want, but we try to have a positive tone to the meetings. As well as talking about their anxieties, we always aim to finish with positivity and ask the young people to share what they are looking forward to achieving in the week ahead, setting small individual objectives as a focus. This has worked well for them.
Keeping that connection can be a great comfort, and it provides children and young adults with the social group that they need. They can interact with peers, talk through any issues and have our social sessions to look forward to, making them feel less isolated.
We have also been running a virtual Jack’s Mates social evening once a month. It is a pub quiz style session with a variety of different quizzes for each one. When we started Jack’s Mates, before the pandemic, we recruited and provided training for volunteers with similar interests to the young adults who use Jacksplace. Once a month a member of the play team would go to a social setting, such as a bar, with four or five young adults from Jacksplace. The volunteers would come along and we would all have a drink or two and a good chat. Even though we have had to meet virtually over the last year, without the volunteers, the feedback has been that it is often the only time that the young adults are able to have a social get together.
Some young people have struggled during the pandemic, there were many anxieties around getting Covid-19 because of being medically vulnerable. Joining the online groups and playing games together was helpful from a social point of view, and they found knowing that other people were in the same situation and having the chance to talk through their anxieties was comforting.
As the restrictions are lifting, there is definitely scope for continuing online sessions. We’ve heard from the young adults, that accessing groups and social activities can sometimes be difficult because they are reliant on lifts from carers, and that isn’t always easy to arrange. So to have online sessions as well, can help with this. For example in the Jack’s Mates group, we’ve had people who live out of the local area but who happily join one of our online groups for the hour and a half, but would have found it difficult to make the journey to Jacksplace for that short space of time. It isn’t quite the same as having person to person interaction, but it definitely provides the opportunity to have the social interaction and to help combat their social isolation.