Virtual support project – AutonoMe

This collaborative project set out to help people with learning disabilities live more independently, particularly after the Covid pandemic. This was done by developing and implementing virtual support through a provider that guides people through information and learning materials to develop their employability and better manage their mental health and wellbeing.


Key messages

  • Evidence-based project shows that vulnerable people, specifically those with learning disabilities, can learn through virtual support.
  • Virtual support focused on ‘learn to learn’ employability and independent living skills, and enhancing well-being, preparing people for challenges after the Covid pandemic.
  • Co-production with people ensures that virtual support content and solutions meet their needs, including building confidence, resilience and identifying goals.
  • Working closely with partners creates the right focus on personalisation and outcomes for people compared to service-driven approaches.

Overview

This collaborative project set out to help people with learning disabilities live more independently, particularly after the Covid pandemic. This was done by developing and implementing virtual support through a provider that guides people through information and learning materials to address their employability and better manage their mental health and wellbeing.

The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (LBBD) brought the project to the Social Care Digital Innovation Accelerator team. The Borough highlighted the need for a national solution that supported both people with learning disabilities and councils:

“The provision of outcomes focused support that helps those with learning disabilities to secure employment and/or manage their health and wellbeing and reintegrate back into social settings post COVID-19, in a cost effective way, will be a key challenge nationally.” Stephan Liebrecht, Operational Director, Adults Care and Support – LBBD.

Collaboration partners

London Borough of Barking & Dagenham, West Sussex County Council, Telford & Wrekin Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council, and Haringey Council.

Virtual support provider

AutonoMe is an established virtual support provider working with more than 300 users across the UK. AutonoMe offers a combination of real-life local education support and a video-driven app featuring evaluation, feedback, and assessment capabilities.

Project

AutonoMe worked with six local authority partners. Through this project they developed and tested the idea that vulnerable people can use virtual support to gain skills for living and working independently with the benefit of positively impacting mental health and wellbeing.

From September 2020, 36 learners used AutonoMe at Home to develop independent living skills in the home:

  • While learners practiced skills for independent living through AutonoMe at Home, the additional features and content required for the AutonoMe at Work were co-produced with the local authority partners and learners.

From January 2021, individuals used AutonoMe at Work to develop employability skills, starting with an assessment of their:

  • aspirations, knowledge, and attitude towards employment
  • confidence, motivation, resilience, and anxiety

This was closely followed by the release of new employability content prioritised by the partners.

Learners then practised their new employability skills and learning about the work environment.

As with AutonoMe at Home content, learners self-assessed their independence with each skill. This formed the backbone of the data collected and analysed. In addition to this, learners and other stakeholder views were gathered informally throughout and more formally in end-of-project surveys.

Co-designed content (AutonoMe at Work)

Project leads from each partner authority along with employment service providers, colleges, social workers, parents, and learners themselves were asked to identify subjects for co-designed content that they thought would increase their employability.

Project outcomes

100 percent of the learners on this project demonstrated the ability to learn through virtual support.

This is an extremely promising and important result. It opens a vast range of opportunity for people who have historically been underrepresented in public life, communities, the workplace, and education; and had limited opportunities to learn beyond formal education. 

The outcomes demonstrate that the virtual support approach is feasible for many vulnerable learners to gain skills and support their goals and aspirations.

This new cost-effective method of supporting vulnerable people increases their employability and improves their mental health and wellbeing. Learners can develop skills and knowledge about the work environment; understand the process of getting a job, read job adverts, learn what to expect in an interview and gain skills for work, working in a team, and time management.

All KPIs, with one exception, were met and in the most part exceeded. Whilst there was variation between the partners, individual results were strong, and the collective results were very promising. In addition to these KPIs, additional benefits were made possible by the virtual nature of the support model:

  • 77 per cent of learners were able to reduce close contact 
  • 27,000 car miles saved through virtual support

Feedback

During the project, significant feedback was received from learners, parents, and support workers including:

She has improved massively; she has come on in leaps and bounds with her confidence and abilities. She can cook and we’ll be looking for her own accommodation, AutonoMe has been so useful.”
Support Worker, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

I feel more confident about understanding what is required when looking for work.”
Learner, LBBD

I’m confident with the progress made and feel more positive about her prospects.”
Parent, West Sussex 

Virtual support project resources

A wide range of quality benefits were also reported as part of this project. Find more detail about AutonoMe quality benefits, KPIs, co-produced employability content and the wider AutonoMe approach.

A 60 minute webinar of the project approach and progress is available (from January 2020).

For more information contact: sam.hore@cc2i.org.uk

For support from the LGA, contact: socialcaredigital@local.gov.uk