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2nd July, 2021

Kingston University research team win University Alliance honour for online support for people with learning disabilities during pandemic


A popular webinar series to support people with learning disabilities during the Covid-19 pandemic has won Kingston University an honour in this year’s University Alliance’s ‘Alliance Awards 2021′.

A team from the University’s Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education scooped the Innovation Award after producing a series of webinars to support people with learning disabilities with end-of-life or bereavement care during the pandemic. The award is given to the team or individual who have come up with impactful solutions and innovations to the most difficult problems, especially during what has been a challenging year. This year’s Innovation Award was a joint award to two of the shortlisted projects, with a team from the University of South Wales also recognised.

The annual awards recognise the hard work, dedication and innovation of individuals and teams from institutions across the country who are members of the University Alliance – the voice of professional and technical universities in the UK – with almost 100 nominations submitted into six categories this year.

Kingston University was also shortlisted in the Alliance Award category, which recognises great collaborative working, for its work to support the national vaccination effort through setting up a vaccination centre on an area of its Penrhyn Road campus in partnership with local NHS teams. The University’s vaccination hub was set up in partnership with two local Primary Care Networks and South West London Clinical Commissioning Group. It supports patients from six of the region’s GP practices and health centres to receive their jabs as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

The winning webinar project was led by Irene Tuffrey-Wijne, Professor of Intellectual Disability and Palliative Care at Kingston University and St George’s University of London, and Events Manager Anastasiya Stravolemova.

Together with the Palliative Care for People with Learning Disabilities (PCPLD) Network and a group of advisers with learning disabilities, they delivered their first YouTube webinar in September 2020. Since then, the team has produced a monthly webinar giving evidence-based advice on a range of topics from bereavement to vaccination prioritisation. The most recent was produced and presented entirely by people with learning disabilities.

Professor Tuffrey-Wijne said the team were delighted to have won the honour for providing much-needed support to people with learning disabilities and their families who have been hugely disadvantaged and vulnerable during the pandemic.

“The overwhelming interest and response to our webinars shows how much need there is for knowledge in this area, and for listening to the voices of people with learning disabilities and their families,” she said. “Winning this award is a confirmation of the importance of working together, reaching out and listening to people. I really hope we can keep that going. Thank you to the entire team.”

Gemma Allen, Chair of the PCPLD Network, said she was delighted that the support provided by the Kingston University team and the network to people with learning disabilities and their families had been recognised. “The webinars are a testimony to the dedication and commitment from all partners and the importance of involving people with lived experience,” she said.

The team were nominated for the award by Dr Annie Hughes, Head of Learning and Teaching Enhancement Education at the University.

“The first webinar was very successful and so helpful to people with learning disabilities, their families and social care and healthcare professionals that they are now a monthly event,” said Dr Hughes. “I was hugely impressed how this team was giving this group a voice and working with, and not just for, people with learning disabilities.”

The award also recognised the importance of collaboration and teamwork, added Professor Tuffrey-Wijne. Her academic expertise was combined with the digital and engagement skills of Anastasiya Stravolemova, Events Administrator at the University, with input from Gemma Allen of the PCPLD Network and from people with learning disabilities, including Research Assistant Richard Keagan-Bull.

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