Supporting people with learning differences and disabilities during Covid-19: Digital Lifeline Impact Report

Being part of emergency response for people with learning disabilities during Covid-19 has been a learning experience for us as well as participants.

AbilityNet was proud to be a part of the emergency response Digital Lifeline set up to provide devices, data and digital skills to digitally excluded people with learning disabilities.

Image shows a collage of the individuals and community partners helped through Digital Lifeline

The initiative was set up by the government’s Department for Culture Media and Sport in response to Covid-19.

Good Things Foundation delivered the scheme in partnership with AbilityNet and Digital Unite.

The project is also supported by Learning Disability England, the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, self-advocates and other disability and digital inclusion organisations. 

Making a difference to people and community partners

AbilityNet was proud to deliver the specialist support element of the emergency response.

Specifically, we’ve supported individuals and community partners that applied for tablets on behalf of those with learning disabilities.

To date, we’ve supported 971 beneficiaries who received a tablet and 121 Community Partners by providing assessments, recommendations, training, and support with the free tablets they received.


What have we learned from Digital Lifeline?

Image shows a selection of statistics from the Impact InfographicIt’s been a rewarding and informative experience for everyone involved at AbilityNet.

We’ve seen a real impact on beneficiaries with some of the headlines being that 92% are better able to use technology, 92% feel more confident and 76% feel more connected to family and friends.

That last statistic is heart-warming as we know people with disabilities – particularly with learning disabilities – were disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

Some of the support we provided included adding Action Blocks – an Android app that creates specific shortcuts – to the home screen of the FREE tablets.

These can make it easier to access, for example, videoconferencing.

We also found the addition of a keyboard and a more robust case, built confidence.


Learning from partners involved in Digital Lifeline

Equally, we’ve supported community partners who applied to get FREE tablets for people they’re helping who have learning disabilities.

Of the 121 we’ve supported:

  • 100% better able to support learners
  • 92% knowledgeable and confident about tech
  • 95% able to work in a more disability-inclusive way
  • 100% better able to engage with learners

It’s been fantastic to work alongside the amazing charity partners, too.

Keeping learning with Digital Lifeline

While we’re delighted with our impact to date, we’ve also learned about some key areas where people with Learning Disabilities need ongoing support.

Notably, there was low take-up around managing finances.

This was an emergency response, and future similar initiatives would benefit from a longer time frame. There’s also a need for more learning and support.

We’ll continue to support people with learning disabilities, and community partners.

How AbilityNet can Help

How AbilityNet has already supported individuals during the pandemic