Virtual Support for Adults with Learning Disabilities

Combining educational technology with one to one support to improve outcomes for vulnerable people in social care settings


AutonoMe is an established virtual support provider working with hundreds of service users enabling independent living across the UK. A video driven app with evaluation, feedback and assessment capabilities, virtual support offers consistent content covering four areas of the Care Act; cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene and safety in the home. 

With around 70% of people with learning disabilities owning smart technology and the impact of the pandemic continuing to present challenges in terms of face to face support, AutonoMe combines technology with a real world approach. Alongside the app, there is a detailed screening process to identify the right people that will benefit from virtual support, as well as a local liaison officer who supports both providers and local authorities to track usage, celebrate success and better learners not only to enable progress, but also adapt their EHCP and wider support to be more reflective.


Building on the success of AutonoMe at Home and to address the specific issue of low employment or prospect of employment across adults with learning disabilities, a collaborative council-led project set out to develop and implement virtual support to help people with learning disabilities live more independently, with a dual focus on supporting people to address their employability and better manage their mental health and wellbeing in light of the pandemic.

“The provision of outcomes focused support that helps those with learning disabilities to secure employment and/or manage their health and wellbeing and reintegrate back into social settings post COVID-19 – in a cost effective way – will be a key challenge nationally.” 

Stephan Liebrecht, Operational Director, Adults Care and Support – LBBD

This project was part of the Social Care Digital Innovation Accelerator 2020/21 and led to the successful virtual support deployment and significant results critically that 77% learners were able to reduce close contact by using virtual support.






AutonoMe worked with six local authority partners to develop and test the idea that vulnerable people can use virtual support to gain skills for independence in the home and or employment as well as support positive mental health and wellbeing. As one of our partners phrased it; “Learning to Learn.”

Critically, the project found that 100% of the learners on this project demonstrated the ability to learn through virtual support.

At a high level, this project was about testing the concept that vulnerable people – specifically those with learning disabilities – are able to learn through virtual support. As one of our partners phrased it; “Learning to Learn.”

From September 2020, 36 learners used AutonoMe at Home to develop independent living skills in the home and from January 2021 used AutonoMe at Work to develop employability skills. Whilst learners began to practice skills for independent living through AutonoMe at Home, the additional features and content required for the AutonoMe at Work were co-produced with the local authority partners.

In January 2021, the AutonoMe at Work service began with an assessment of aspirations, knowledge and attitude towards employment as well as an assessment of learners’ confidence, motivation, resilience and anxiety which was closely followed by the release of new employability content selected by the partners.

From January 2021, learners practiced new employability skills and learning about the work environment. As with AutonoMe at Home content, learners self-assessed their independence with each skill which forms the backbone of the data which was analysed. In addition to this reporting, learners and other stakeholder views were sought informally throughout the project by the dedicated Local Education Officer (LEO) and more formally in end of project surveys.

Project leads from each partner authority along with supported employment service providers, colleges, social workers, parents and learners themselves were asked to identify subjects for content that they thought would increase their employability, this was co-produced and is now available as part of AutonoMe at Work.

Content Identified by SCDIA Partners: 
  • Time management             
  • Organisational skills
  • Team work
  • Communication Skills
  • Social Skills
  • How to write a CV
  • What is a CV
  • Setting realistic job expectations
  • Interview Skills
  • What to expect in an interview
  • Managing job rejection
  • What to expect in the workplace
  • How to get help in the workplace
Content Requested by SCDIA learners:
  • How to complete an application form
  • Understanding job adverts
  • Planning a commute
  • How to use your device
  • Working on a till? Understanding money values
  • Customer Service- how to talk to the people in a professional way
  • Garden- key jobs
  • How to use contactless card readers in a shop
  • What are zero hour contracts?
  • Calming techniques in an interview



During the project we received significant feedback from learners, parents and support workers – too much to publish here – but headlines include:

  • She has improved massively, she has come on in leaps and bounds with her confidence and abilities. She can cook and we’ll be looking for her own accommodation, AutonoMe has been so useful

Support Worker, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Councils

  • I feel more confident about understanding what is required when looking for work

Learner, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

  • I’m really confident with the progress made and feel more positive about her future prospects

Parent, West Sussex County Council


Alongside the headline that 100% of the learners on this project demonstrated the ability to learn through virtual support, a range of benefits were realised by the work of this collaboration – all of which is now available for other learners and local authorities to engage with.

The collaborative work has proven that virtual support opens up a vast range of opportunity for people who have historically been underrepresented in public life- communities, the workplace, education and had limited opportunities to learn beyond formal education.  

Via this work we have created an entirely new method of supporting vulnerable people to increase their employability and improve their mental health and wellbeing. Learners are able to develop skills and knowledge about the work environment; understanding the process of getting a job, reading job adverts, what to expect in an interview and gaining skills for work, working in a team, time management. In so doing learners become more confident, motivated, resilient and less anxious about the world of work.

With just one exception, all KPIs identified by the group were met and in the most part exceeded. Whilst there was variation between the partners, individual results are strong and the collective results were very promising. 

Amongst the range of quality benefits reported are: 

  • Reduction in the need for close contact – with the follow on benefit that learners are better able to maintain social distancing from support workers whilst using AutonoMe 
  • Tenancy maintenance – learners are better able to maintain their tenancy with AutonoMe support
  • Reduction in day centre need – anecdotally, learners who engage with AutonoMe may require less day service provision than they did prior to the programme 
  • Improved Outcomes Plan via co-produced plan to support learners to focus on and gain the skills they need to reach their goals


For more information, a bespoke business case or a demonstration please get in touch or visit the AutonoMe website for testimonials and context – additionally a case study is available on the Local Government Association’s website.