Commercial and Operations Director, Vodafone Business
Member of the board, Vodafone Business Ventures
It’s been almost a year since we introduced Connected Living with Mencap, a leading charity in the UK that supports people with a learning disability, as well as their families, friends and carers.
Connected Living is one of two key priorities for Vodafone Business Ventures, which aims to combine technology and projects with a social purpose to change lives for the better.
Since the launch, Mencap staff and service users have been exploring how smart home devices and apps, powered by the Internet of Things and mobile services can make life easier, with 30 sites included in the trial so far.
Adapting to a new technology is no easy step at the best of times, but the global challenge of COVID-19 has placed immense pressure on the care sector in particular.
That’s why we’ve been working with Mencap to make sure the Connected Living solution adapts with them during this pandemic.
Staying connected through isolation
Most people are spending more time online or on their devices during the pandemic and the residents at Mencap are no different.
The My Life application contains a “how to” feature, which lets people record step-by-step instructions to help with everyday tasks. This might be making a cup of tea, cooking pasta or cleaning up after dinner.
Now, staff can broaden the feature to include tips on regular hand washing, disposing of tissues and washing down surfaces.
These How To’guides help service users feel more independent at home while reducing the need for physical staff visits.
Mike* used My Life guide to make a pasta salad four or five times. Now he’s making it without using the tablet at all, learning the recipe off by heart.
Feeling in control
The sudden change in behaviour brought on by lockdown measures has left many of us feeling uncertain, and the Mencap staff are aware of the upset this could cause in their communities.
The How To function is also being used to create videos that explain, for example, why people can’t go outside or see family like they normally would.
These videos also help to explain why a housemate needs to self-isolate or wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
Across the home, the My Room function controls features like lighting and digital doorbells, reducing the need for contact with physical surfaces
Light changes are really useful for the residents. Additionally, workers can see what colour lights are being used to determine how residents are feeling through colour - very useful for visual residents.
My Day, my routine
When it comes to life under lockdown, we’ve heard lots about how regular movement is vital for our mental health and wellbeing. The My Day function has helped with this, allowing staff and service users to catch up remotely and plan daily activities.
This might mean setting a challenge to walk up and down the stairs 10 times, check how a plant is growing in the garden or a reminder to watch a favourite film in the evening.
These join the My Talk feature, which helps people express themselves and let their carers know how they’re feeling. The app uses large icons or shapes with associated phrasing that completes a text-to-speech journey.
As the pandemic progressed, the priority for the team at Vodafone Business Ventures was to maintain all services from home. We’ve also provided additional tablets, ready to be delivered to those in isolation, pre-set and ready for use.
Outside of the project, Mencap staff have seen an increased use of technology generally, as friends and family invest after seeing the positive impact it can have.
Mencap aims to digitalise over the next few years, with similar ambitions shared by its peers in the third sector and healthcare industry more broadly, as well as the European Commission.
For now, it’s about getting through this together. But the team are confident that Connected Living will continue to improve independence and quality of life for service users and staff.