Pilot project helps Honiton man stay in touch

Innovative technology being used to help people with special needs gain independence.

A man with special needs from Honiton is taking part in a pilot scheme that uses mobile phones to aid independence.

Barry Mears, 34, was given a mobile phone as part of a regional programme run by Plymouth-based FTR Mobile Support Services.

Barry’s parents, Sue and Colin Mears, agreed to let him participate in the pilot as he has always wanted a mobile phone.

“Nearly every 34-year-old man has a mobile phone, and Barry was no different in that he wanted one too. But until now we haven’t felt comfortable with the idea,” said Sue Mears.

“We were worried about him using it inappropriately to ring all and sundry, running up bills or even running out of credit and not having any in an emergency.”

Many people with special needs are excluded from the mobile market, as today’s phones are often too complicated and intricate.

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FTR Mobile Support Services has responded to this problem by sourcing high quality phones made by the Swedish firm, Doro. These phones have simpler functions, larger buttons and support the Government’s strategy to promote independent living.

Pressure on the public purse means that individuals who are cared for, or those doing the caring, need to be better prepared to manage themselves and or those they are responsible for.

Barry’s parents have control of the phone’s account and have set usage levels to prevent Barry running up huge bills. This control means they receive an email if Barry starts to use the phone a lot and creep towards his limit.

The family has also worked to ensure the phone arrived pre-programmed with his everyday and emergency contact numbers to enable him to call with the touch of a single button, instead of having to scroll through an address book to find the right person.

As parents and carers, Mr and Mrs Mears are comforted by their son being able to call them whenever he wants or needs to, not only when he needs help, but also when he wants to share something that has made him happy or proud.

“The first day he had his phone, he called us five times,” said Mrs Mears. “It was lovely to hear him being so proud of himself. In fact he called me when he was walking home – I could see him, but he still wanted to let me know that he was on his way back!”

Kevin Kodritsch, of FTR Mobile, said: “This pilot has been fantastic and provided us with useful first-hand feedback.”