Press Release 9 April 2020
9 April 2020
The Coronavirus pandemic has introduced the phrase ‘social isolation’ to our vocabulary but is it new? The ONSIDE project believes it is not and is in fact a well-trodden path for many disabled people. It is also the focus behind its new cross border service aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of disabled people by reducing the social isolation they experience daily.
The ONSIDE project is supported by an award of €5.56m by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, a programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding has also been provided by the Departments of Health in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Speaking about the true meaning of ‘social isolation’ Orla McCann, ONSIDE Project Manager said: “What most of us are experiencing now is not real-life ‘social isolation’, we can still go to the shop or head out for a walk once a day. We also know thankfully; these restrictions will not last forever. But what if they were? Many disabled people live with long term social isolation. Issues such as limited or restricted access to transport, no after-hours social care and limited uptake of internet use mean many recreational hobbies and leisure activities are not accessible to them. Rather than living as active citizens they are forced indoors to face the reality of an unwanted, lonely life”.
Speaking further about how social isolation evolves Orla said: “It’s not an overnight occurrence rather a sustained combination of macro and micro-obstacles. Macro obstacles can be a lack of further education opportunities and meaningful employment. Everyday micro-obstacles may be inaccessible transport, buildings and social events. These obstacles combined lead to a state of imposed ‘lock-down’ for many disabled people”.
Turning to how disabled people can reduce their social isolation Orla said: “The ONSIDE project aims to support disabled people create community connections of their own choosing. ONSIDE provides tailored support for participants to establish social connections alongside digital skills training which allows them to connect to online communities too. Both strands collectively help address and reduce social isolation. ONSIDE is available throughout Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland border regions. To get involved call 028 9029 7880 or +353 1873 0455 or find us on Facebook and Twitter.
In conclusion, Orla said: “Perhaps when we are not required to ‘socially isolate’ and regain our busy social lives we will remember those in our community who remain in lockdown? Perhaps now Government agencies and policy makers will have a deeper empathy of social isolation and create positive changes that will help disabled people lead active lives in their local communities? I look forward to see how this narrative unfolds.”