'Staying Connected' is a virtual programme run by RehabCare, Tullamore.

RehabCare Tullamore 'staying connected' with virtual project

'Staying Connected', a thriving virtual programme launched in RehabCare, Tullamore promotes positive mental health and fosters a sense of community and inclusion for more than 90 people in the services as well as their family members and RehabCare staff.

2020 was a year like no other, bringing unparalleled challenges to the members of RehabCare Tullamore. Socialisation has always been central to the support provided, making sure that the people in the services are offered equal opportunities for personal progression and are included within their communities. With the arrival of Covid-19 restrictions, the staff were forced to make huge changes, significantly curtailing the numbers of people allowed within the centres at any one time.

Although outreach support was provided, isolation from peers and friends became a very real threat. The staff needed to come up with innovative ways to stay in touch and continue the important learning programmes and, with that, 'Staying Connected' was born, an online hub of activities and events, designed for people in RehabCare's services across Tullamore.

Amy Scott, Programme Supervisor at RehabCare's Canal View service in Tullamore, says: "The programme took away a lot of the fear that the staff and the families were feeling, that people's social needs wouldn't be met. Everybody on the programme is now getting to know everybody else, and, in a way, we're more connected than ever before'. Staying Connected brings people together from four RehabCare services including Eiscir Meadows, the Tanyard, the Hub and Canal View, using a private Facebook page, where people in the services can access wide-ranging activities, from art competitions, Thursday Quizzes and the Friday Breakfast Club.

"One of the best things we did was a virtual Pet Show. Operation Transformation Tullamore is ongoing here too, and we're all giving each other great moral support on the Facebook page".

The initiative has had a hugely positive impact on the lives of the people who use the services, despite not being able to gather together as a large group in their centre as they had in the past. One of the members who uses the RehabCare service has begun delivering some of the programme activities himself, sharing his knowledge with peers and staff alike. 'Staying Connected' has enabled people to learn and enhance vital communication and technology skills.

Amy says that the programme has created a really good relationship with family members.

"The families are included in the programme and are delighted to see what their loved ones are doing and be part of it. It's just created such a good atmosphere and a very good community connection for us all in Tullamore and we've got a really good response from people. A lot of celebrities have come on to send us video messages, like Nathan Carter and Mike Denver, wishing everyone well. We've even held a live music session featuring John Molloy and Alex Roe. It's been so beneficial for our mental health, not only for the people in the services but for the staff too. We've received our Amber Flag award from Pieta House in recognition of our work to promote positive mental well-being."

"The programme has shown that just because some of the guys aren't coming into the centre, it doesn't mean their service should stop. We're really proud of what we've achieved together," Amy ends.