Telford and Wrekin Council, part of innovative digital project aimed at helping people with learning disabilities

A hi-tech trial is under way in the borough, to see if a newly-developed app can help people with learning disabilities into work.

Telford and Wrekin Council, part of innovative digital project aimed at helping people with learning disabilities

The Council is among six local authorities working with the Local Government Association and technical partner AutonoMe to assess the use of the virtual support technology.

Ten people with learning disabilities from across Telford and Wrekin are involved in the project, supported by their social workers from the Council’s Learning Disability and Autism Team and My Options Stepping into Work staff.

Nationwide, 50 people are taking part in the pilot study.

AutonoMe currently provides a virtual support service, called AutonoMe at Home, which combines one-to-one support and guidance through a mobile phone app, to support people with learning disabilities with independent living skills at home, with the focus on cooking, cleaning, personal security and personal hygiene.  

The app includes video guides, reminders and feedback from people using the app. 

The new project aims to extend the app by developing an “AutonoMe at Work” section, to help people with learning disabilities to develop their employability skills.

Initially, the project is concentrated on getting people to use the app, to learn what works for them and what doesn’t. Based on this learning, it will then move on to develop the new “AutonoMe at Work” elements.

Councillor Andy Burford, Telford and Wrekin Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said: “We are proud to be part of the AutonoMe pilot project, from which we can learn whether this digital approach works and if it is something that can be added to the range of support for people with learning disabilities that is already available in the borough.

“Supporting people’s independence and their ability to live independent lives and helping those with learning disabilities to secure employment are among our key priorities. 

“The AutonoMe pilot project also links in to the Council’s digital agenda to make services available digitally with 24/7 access. This is particularly important in the light of the current issues we all face as part of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

William Britton, CEO of AutonoMe, added: “The project aims to provide additional service insight, user feedback and support, so that commissioners and providers receive a very clear picture of how well residents on the project are coping with independent living and gaining skills for employment.”

While the AutonoMe at Work pilot project is currently limited to 10 people in the borough, the Council aims to take what it learns as a result and feed that into its digital work programme across Adult Social Care over the coming year.

As well as extending the app to help people with learning disabilities into employment, it is hoped it will also assist them with adapting to life in the wake Covid-19 – seen as a key challenge nationwide.

According to The Mental Health Foundation, there are 1.5 million people living with a learning disability in the UK, all of whom will have experienced significant adjustments to their lives as a result of social distancing regulations. 

Additionally – prior to the COVID-19 outbreak – the national view confirms that just 17% of individuals with learning disabilities as their main health condition were in employment and only 6% of adults with a learning disability known to their local authority in England are in paid work.

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