Online learning programme used to help people with learning disabilities

Neil Adams with Lisa.

A housing association is seeing “extraordinary’ results with people it supports who have learning disabilities following the introduction of an innovative online technology programme.

Broadacres is using a tool known as SIGNAL to help it better understand the needs of people in its learning disability service, which consists of two purpose-built properties in Northallerton, as well as outreach accommodation.

The technology platform was originally developed to help identify and remove people from poverty, but has been expanded to support other groups, such as those with learning disabilities and mental health needs.

It consists of a range of questions which people answer by choosing a red, amber, and green symbol, for example are they registered to vote or do they have money management problems.

An amber or red symbol flags a potential issue and enables solutions to be put in place to address this.

In Broadacres’ case, so far half of the 15 people currently part of the learning disability service have taken the survey, and the Association says it has already helped them identify and put into place further support measures for its customers.

Examples include a customer who raised concerns about his health and who is now going to the gym three times a week after conquering his anxiety, and another customer whose debt problems have almost completely been eradicated as a result of taking the survey.

Neil Adams, Broadacres’ Learning Disability Team Leader said: “Because of the nature of their disability, we often find people in our service to be like closed books at time.

“For example, we have a customer that, for our service, is on the lower end of support needs; he is an established tenant with a close family that help to support him, so going into it we thought he would have lots of greens.

“However, through SIGNAL identified needs that we never would have been aware of before, ranging from fairly simple to some much more complex needs.

“This really allowed him to open up and think I learned more about him in the time it took to go through SIGNAL than I had in the previous two years of working with him!

SIGNAL has been an extraordinary tool for us, revealing extra pieces of information about our customers, including things they have always wanted to do and things they worry about, and enabling us to put measures in place to address these.”

One of the Broadacres’ customers who has used SIGNAL is Lisa, who said: “’I really enjoyed filling out the survey. It was easy to complete and has helped me to show my support workers where I need the most help.”