Numbers contacting literacy helpline jump during pandemic

National Adult Literacy Agency reports 44% more calls as pandemic pushes people to read

In the Republic, one in six adults are at level one of a five-level literacy scale, and this is likely to lead to lower income and poorer health.

In the Republic, one in six adults are at level one of a five-level literacy scale, and this is likely to lead to lower income and poorer health.

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The number of people contacting an adult literacy helpline has jumped significantly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with some deciding to use unexpected free time to learn how to read.

The National Adult Literacy Agency (Nala) has reported a 44 per cent increase in calls to support lines in the year to the end of March, and are attributing the trend to the lockdowns.

Many of the callers have lost jobs or are struggling to understand home schooling work for their children.

The service also helps people having issues with technology and provides distance-learning courses.

‘Time to reflect’

While the service gets calls from people of all ages, the manager of the freephone service, Jennifer Dowling, says the mix of callers has changed.

“Some people have more time to reflect and have decided, this is the time to learn how to read,” she said.

Others need help with communicating remotely “and others are just lonely”, she said.

Examples of the people who had been making use of the service ranged from a taxi driver who left school early and decided to use the lockdown to learn to read and write, to an unemployed hotel worker with Down syndrome who was set up with an online tutor so he could continue reading lessons while waiting for the lockdown to end.

Reading and writing

Nala helps with reading and writing, but also maths and technology, said Ms Dowling.

“It might just be help with setting up an email account. It sounds small, but for some people it can mean a lot.”

In the Republic, one in six adults are at level one of a five-level literacy scale, and this is likely to lead to lower income and poorer health.

The number of people using the literacy agency ’s freephone line jumped by approximately 1,000, to 3,370, in the most recent year.

Nala is a registered charity that receives a grant of €2 million annually from Solas, the further education and training authority.

The agency’s chief executive, Colleen Dube, said workers with low educational attainment “have suffered greater levels of unemployment and no doubt social isolation and stress”.

Nala.ie, freephone 1800 202065