Our Chief Executive Lesslie Young looks at the importance of digital access during and beyond COVID-19.
From day one of lockdown Epilepsy Scotland’s priority was to ensure people with epilepsy could access all the services they needed, to continue their progress to an improved wellbeing. This meant moving our services online.
We discussed the idea of online provision with those who use our services, so we knew what their preferences were, what access they had to IT and of course, how confident they felt using it.
We wanted to utilise our person-centred approach to continue to offer a personalised support albeit online.
This essential change in service provision combined with the fact not all young people had access to IT for home learning led to Epilepsy Scotland’s initiative to supply laptops to young people who needed them.
We distributed eleven laptops and tablets to young people, aged 6 to 17, across Scotland. This was made possible using funding secured by Epilepsy Scotland and generous donations from local businesses.
There is significant overlap between digital exclusion and social inequality, which has been intensified by COVID-19.
Due to the success of this initiative, we hope to continue to work with Epilepsy Specialist Nurses across Scotland to help get vital devices to other young people with epilepsy and ensure digital access.
A digital learning curve
I am enormously proud of the team at Epilepsy Scotland who demonstrated creativity, flexibility and learned new skills quickly to allow all this and much more to happen in service provision and training.
COVID-19 has made us think about the need for youth group access across Scotland. During lockdown we introduced our Glasgow and Edinburgh youth groups to each other and some new members from outside the central belt.
We aim to maintain an integrated digital provision going forward to link up more young people across the country and are excited about plans to connect with an epilepsy youth group in Malawi ‘Epilepsy Warriors’.
Although youth group members look forward to getting out and about and seeing each other again, some members described meeting online as less intimidating than face to face group meetings.
The pandemic has shown us the real benefits of an online offering. It may not suit everyone but when it does, we should to everything we can to ensure access.
Making a difference
One of the recipients of our laptop giveaway was 11-year-old Millie.
Millie’s mum Lisa said the laptop will make a big difference to her learning.
She said: “Millie can’t read or write but can recognise letters and numbers, so she will be able to use the laptop to help her learning.
“We are going to ask her teacher to recommend some websites they use in class, so we can sit with her and do these together.
“Millie was so happy to receive the laptop and grateful to be nominated by her epilepsy specialist nurse. Having the laptop will have a big impact on helping her learn during school.”
If you or your company are interested in donating repurposed IT equipment for this initiative and giving more people with epilepsy across Scotland access to wellbeing services please email firstname.lastname@example.org.