Vodafone and Mencap team up to improve lives of people with learning disability

A new initiative connecting supported living homes using Internet of Things (IoT) technology has been launched by Vodafone and Mencap.

The innovative Connected Living project uses technology to enhance the quality of life for people with learning disabilities, as well as providing support workers with complimentary tools to use in providing personalised care.

Co-designed by Vodafone, support workers and people with learning disabilities living in Mencap’s supported living services, Connected Living was piloted successfully over 12 months in locations across Hampshire, Sussex, Somerset, Cornwall, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Suffolk.

The collaborative partnership has involved people with a learning disability and support workers and service managers. It combines Vodafone’s expertise in IoT and connectivity with Mencap’s experience of improving the quality of life for people with a learning disability.

The pilot focused on how to make everyday activities – such as household tasks, time planning and socialising – easier. Technologies, including a range of user friendly, intuitive IoT enabled devices were installed in Mencap Supported Living homes controlled by a bespoke app, called Vodafone MyLife.

Unlike standalone devices including GPS trackers or fall detectors, the MyLife app offers a simple user interface that is integrated and accessible via a single tablet. It gives Mencap’s clients control of their smart devices, while also enabling their support workers to have remote access.

In addition, the Vodafone MyLife app allows users to create visual guides for everyday tasks and a host of other features such as:

  • My Room – enables residents to manage smart plugs, smart locks and smart lights via the app.
  • How To – allows residents and support workers to create visual guides for everyday tasks.
  • My Day – is a personalised diary management tool that enables users to create daily reminders for everyday tasks.
  • My Talk – provides those with speech problems another way to communicate, via personalised images, text and a speech function.
  • Call Support – allows prompt remote support via a digital ‘panic button’ that allows two-way video calling between residents and support worker with one touch.
  • To Do List – enables tenants to create easy to manage to do lists to encourage them to carry out and tick off tasks throughout the day.
  • My Front Door – enables residents to answer their front door and check who is calling from anywhere in the house.

Other IoT technologies trialled include:

  • Activity Sensors – which detect unexpected movement and alert support workers.
  • Smart Locks – which can be used to provide residents privacy and a sense of security in their own rooms.

Steve Baker, Operations Director from Mencap said: “There are more than 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK and they face inequalities in every area of their life. They are more likely to live in poverty, be isolated, less likely to be in employment and often don’t have access to technology, which is a barrier in itself. Day-to-day tasks, which many of us take for granted can be a real struggle.

“Technology can provide simple solutions to enable them to take control and have greater independence and that really makes a difference. We are committed to improving the lives of people with a learning disability – we don’t want them to be left out and we know that in an increasingly digital world, we need to be innovative about our approach.

“It was important to us to make this a truly collaborative project – that the people we support ended up with something truly bespoke that gave them exactly what they needed. This wasn’t about off-the shelf tech – so as world leaders in IoT, Vodafone were the perfect partner. The most rewarding thing has been to see it working and the life changing impact it can have for the people we support and their support workers, who do such an amazing and challenging job.”


Adam, 32, from Loughborough

Adam, who has Down Syndrome and Dyslexia, has been part of the Vodafone ‘Connected Living’ pilot since July 2018. He currently lives in Loughborough with housemate Matt.  Adam has lived in Supportive Living facilities for over 15 years but has always been very independent.

The Vodafone ‘MyLife’ app’ lets him use reminders to help him get ready for college in the morning, remind him to shower regularly, get to places on time and manage his weekly tasks.  Adam said ‘The app helps you get up and ready, feed yourself and think yourself, ready to relax’. Its shopping list feature also helps him to buy the ingredients he needs to cook for himself and shared functionality means he can sit down with housemate Matt, talk about food planning and create a shared list. Adam loves Italian food and his favourite things to cook are spaghetti bolognese and salads. He says the technology makes things more simple and like he’s achieved something which makes him feel ‘great’.

Adam’s mum Nicky, has enjoyed seeing him really flourish and make the most of his independence with support of the MyLife app. She said: “Adam is a very visual learner. He can read to a certain extent but he can’t read very well so the fact that you can take pictures and read a short text, and follow step-by-step instructions on the tablet really adds to his independence. Adam absolutely loves cooking so the Shopping List and the How To have been really helpful. The more he uses it the more he will become more independent over time.”

Support Worker, Sophie Baldry, 27 from Basingstoke

Sophie has been working as a support worker for Martyn and Ashley for the past year and has seen both tenants thrive with the new technology, watching them grow both in independence and confidence. The technology provided via the Connected Living pilot, specifically the interactive ‘MyLife’ app, has given the tenants the opportunity to take control of their day to day tasks – tasks that people would usually take for granted such as cooking their own meals and going out on their own.

The Connected Living project has also given Sophie opportunities to work with Martyn and Ashley on developing more independence and skills. She’s even been able to take Martyn and Ashley on a trip to Marwell, which wouldn’t have been possible without the reassurance of the Vodafone technology to help them feel safe and confident when out and about. “The app isn’t replacing the care of a support worker, it’s helping us to do our jobs in a more effective and compassionate way. It’s been wonderful watching them grow in confidence since using the technology.’

Picture (c) Vodafone.