21st October 2021
Like so many parts of the health service, new ways of working during the pandemic required a reimagining of adult day services programmes and the ways in which they can be offered. The introduction of a Digital Tablet Loan Scheme across EVE’s twenty mental health and disability services proved to be a lifeline for many service users keen to stay connected to their service, their friends and community from home. A HSE programme whose primary ethos is to provide community-based recovery-orientated programmes for adults who experience mental health difficulties, intellectual difficulties, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Physical and Sensory disabilities, the EVE Programme operates through a network of Vocational, HUB and Clubhouse services in 20 locations across the HSE Community Healthcare Organisations in Dun Laoghaire and Dublin South East (CHO6), Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow (CHO7) and Dublin North City and County and Wicklow (CHO9).
Through their dedicated tablet scheme, tablets were purchased by EVE and offered to those who did not have access to technology or could not afford to buy their own devices.
Services like EVE’s Suaimhneas Clubhouse in Raheny were quick to see the advantages of offering their members this online connection to both their programmes and opportunities in the wider community. Suaimhneas is one of EVE’s seven Clubhouse that supports members with mental health difficulties in their recovery journey to live full and productive lives in the community.
Eddie, a member explained: “I have been a member of Suaimhneas for many years and they have always done what they can to help me, but I couldn’t believe it when Suaimhneas were able to lend me a Samsung Tablet. My luck was in. Because of Covid19 many of the Club’s activities are now remote, and my college is on zoom. With the tablet, I can link in with the members and staff of Suaimhneas over WebEx, and I can also zoom into my college course. On my course, the tutor talks about computers. My world is now fantastic with the tablet. In the evenings, when Suaimhneas is closed and my college is finished, I can log on to YouTube and listen to Music and watch videos. Happy Days!”
Whilst adapting to using virtual technology was a challenge for both staff and members demanding a lot of training and support, feedback suggests that the benefits justify the effort. As another member, Catherine, describes it: “The loan of the tables from Suaimhneas Clubhouse was a lifesaver for me during the pandemic and continues to be a tremendous help. It is such a marvellous link with Clubhouse staff and members. Communication is the lifeline for me and my mental health”.
Claire Brennan, Suaimhneas Manager, identified that with virtual access to House Meetings, scheduled morning coffee n’chat sessions and online courses, Catherine has been able to “contribute to the work ordered day of the Clubhouse continuing to be an active, valued member. Online social activities on bank holidays and in the evenings like quizzes and bingo also emerged as a popular new feature of services over the past months which we hope will continue.”
According to Margaret Webb, General Manager, EVE: “As restrictions lift and members of Suaimhneas Clubhouse enjoy attending onsite again, virtual programmes and services continue. By offering services in a more flexible way, people now have greater access to social, educational and employment opportunities and addressed concerns over social isolation. In time, we plan to expand our online offering by creating an online community HUB for those who enjoy and value the online experience. Building confidence, skills and capacity in digital technology takes time but for EVE services, this could emerge as one of the very positive service bonus from the pandemic.”
Margaret added: “We would like to say thanks also to all those in CHOs Dublin South, Kildare West Wicklow and Dublin North City and County (Day Opportunities) for their financial support for this initiative.”