Staying up late

Sheffield Voices Halloween social dress up evening

People who have learning disabilities or are autistic are all too often unable to lead full and active social lives because the right support isn’t in place. Nights out dancing or going to concerts often don’t happen because of limited evening support shifts. The Covid-19 pandemic further limited opportunities to see friends and meet new people, and for so many people this led to isolation and loneliness.

Creating Connections partner Sheffield Voices quickly started running online events and activities. They worked hard to put on a range of different, fun things to do online. From talking with the people they support, it was clear that there weren’t many events after dark, so Sheffield Voices was excited to try something new – Wednesday evening online socials!

The sessions are planned and chosen by the people taking part – with karaoke, dancing, crafts, cookery, games and movie nights to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Each event is interactive, so everyone can get involved. Learning to take turns talking on a video call is a key skill that helps people build confidence and speak up in different social situations.

Kelly Scargill, who hosts social nights for Sheffield Voices, says:

“The dance and karaoke were so popular. I think that the best song to do on Zoom is the ‘Hokey cokey’ because everyone knows it and goes up to the screen on the chorus. I see people who aren’t confident really get into the singing and movements on screen. That’s the best thing to see!

We’re helping people to access other groups too so that they can connect with more people and be part of a growing network.”

Going online to help people stay connected while being socially distanced has provided a sense of community at a difficult time, when it’s so easy to feel alone. Although there’s nothing like face to face contact, digital networks mean that people who have learning disabilities or are autistic can continue to enjoy evening socialising in the future.

Kelly says:

“We want to do both face to face and digital service going forward. Digital services can be really accessible and a lot more flexible. So while someone might not always have the care and support to physically get out, they can actually still have the opportunity to socialise and have fun.”