Fresh thinking from IHC during COVID-19

Media release

21 April 2020


IHC is thinking outside the square to support people during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“The current situation is upsetting and inconvenient for most people – imagine what it’s like for people with an intellectual disability and their families,” says Janine Stewart, IHC General Manager Programmes.

The lockdown means people IHC supports might not be able to take part in regular activities like visits to IDEA Services day bases, and community outings like swimming or Riding for the Disabled.

And some families are coping with less face-to-face support due to the travel and social restrictions.

“That means we’ve had to find some new ways to make sure people feel connected and safe,” Janine says.

“Most of us take the phone for granted. But not all our people can speak, or hear properly. So we are getting devices into residential homes so people can communicate with loved ones over Skype – even use sign language to each other.”

The devices are also being used to teach people how to use the internet, and shop online.

IHC has also heard that many people are feeling isolated and lonely – often because they’ve run out of credit on their phones.

So IHC is topping up phone credit so people can stay in touch with loved ones.

IHC has also set up a Facebook page called Awhi (“embrace”) at Home to support families. There are online sessions with play therapists, music therapists and behavioural therapists and activities to help them keep their children entertained.

Parents can chat with other parents and share practical experiences on what is working for them. They can also let off steam with parents who understand how they are feeling, so they don’t feel completely alone and overwhelmed.

“Tellingly, the busiest time on the page is around midnight, when parents finally have got their kids to bed and have a few moments of time to themselves,” Janine says.

Through its Take a Break scheme, IHC has also provided gift cards to some families to help with shopping – and a few Easter treats.

Here’s some of the feedback:

“What a lovely surprise to receive your Prezzy card today. I was shocked to see a courier at the gate let alone get a gift. This couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been holding off on getting too many groceries so now I can get a few more supplies before Easter. Thanks so much.”

“Thank you for the awesome gift card for groceries. I did a shop before Easter and got the kids some marshmallow eggs as a treat. I even got myself a big block of caramello which I hid from everyone. Me and my husband have two squares each with a cuppa when watching tv when the kids have gone to bed. Making it last all week. Our little treat. Heaven.”

And IHC has also launched – a support network for people living on their own, or who are caring for a vulnerable person. As part of the free service, volunteers are regularly calling people who sign up to a friendly voice and practical solutions.

In one instance, a volunteer was able to help a Whangarei woman who is living with two young grandchildren and couldn’t get out to shop. The volunteer arranged for the local Driving Miss Daisy franchise to do her weekly shopping, free of charge.

Much of the funding for all the innovation has come from generous donors, and IHC has set up an emergency fund at for more kind Kiwis to show their care and support for the intellectually disabled community.