My journey into paid work by David

David from the Accelerate project

28 November 2018.

The Accelerate project helps people with a learning disability or autism find sustainable, paid employment.

Journey guides work on a one-to-one basis with participants, helping them understand and navigate the world of work.

David is one such participant who spent years trying to find the right opportunity for paid work – this is his story in his own words.

“My journey to paid employment has been a struggle, as I was abused, neglected and partly separated from society by my late adopted mother.

Even when I had paid work, I never had anything to do with my wages.

After my first meeting with Grapevine I realised I knew the interviewer, Mia.

Mia introduced me to Gordon at Grapevine, who helped me find creative writing groups and voluntary work with the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

…in the hope that it would lead to a job I stuck with the Herbert ever since, like everyone else who made the effort to know what was going on with me, suggested.

I then had an opportunity for paid work at the Herbert in June 2014, but failed the interview as they felt I still needed to improve my confidence and skills.

David's journey into paid work
David never gave up on his search

So I kept trying for paid work, even looking at jobs outside of the Herbert, which I have been doing since 2002 by myself and since 2014 with Patrick from Open Doors (housing and support services).

We didn’t have much luck… Patrick then remembered Tess, who had helped other Open Doors tenants with paid employment.

Eventually Tess suggested a job scheme called Accelerate at Grapevine… Patrick and I took up the offer of joining Accelerate and this is when I met Alex.

David from Accelerate
David hopes his story will inspire others

Immediately Alex, in November 2016, found an opportunity for me with Russell’s Garden Centre. They said that I may or may not have a paid opportunity by March 2017, however gave me the chance to prove myself until then.

However, March came and went and I was still volunteering and looking for paid work due to not being qualified enough to replace a more skilled employee. Although they found me impressive enough to keep me as a volunteer.

As time went on with no luck in any paid opportunities for work I became worried that I would always be a volunteer.

However, I never gave up searching for paid opportunities and neither did Alex.

Due to this, as from October 2018, I am now a Casual Museum Assistant at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

I am really happy I finally have paid work, although I feel I need time for it to sink in first, partly due to not having access to wages etc in my past and partly due to the end of the year being busy for me.

Plus, at the moment I am helping a colleague from the Herbert with plants for her garden with help from Russell’s Garden Centre.

I designed a plan for the garden in April last year and both her and her husband liked it and informed the gardener/builder of my idea and he finally finished it July this year.

Anyway even though I have a casual job at the Herbert, I am happy I finally have something to call my own and I hope my journey will inspire others.

If I can get there, anyone can.

David.”

Accelerate is a Building Better Opportunities Project funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery, through the Big Lottery Fund. It is delivered by a local partnership of organisations providing people with access to a wide range of job support services.

Social Living Room #2

Social Living Room by Connecting for Good

28 November 2018.

It’s happening again but this time it’s different.

This Friday (30 November) #ConnectingforGood meet for their second Social Living Room at Theatre Absolute in Coventry at 5pm.

But this time the free event starts with an outdoor game around the city centre, designed by Laina and Alice to work up a good appetite ready for soup, homemade bread and thinking up ideas for new adventures in the city and beyond. Plus some light entertainment from Rishard and Paul!

Please come along if you have experienced or are currently experiencing isolation or loneliness. You may simply care about the cause. We need everyone on board so we can make a real difference.

Click here for the event details on Facebook. If you’re not on Facebook, rest assured we’ll be there at 5pm to welcome you. Don’t forget to wrap up warm!

Connecting for Good is sparking a movement against isolation in Coventry and is funded for three years by the Big Lottery Fund.

A week in the life of Grapevine

a week in the life of

27 November 2018.

Dear Diary, it’s been a busy week!

So to catch you up here’s a quick round up of the different things happening at Grapevine in the last seven days! Just the tip of the iceberg really…

Monday 19 November

Teenvine Plus Manager Chloe travelled to London with the Coventry Youth Partnership to attend the UK Youth Awards.

Alongside other local organisations including Positive Youth Foundation (PYF), Coventry Girls and Boys Club and C O Visions, Chloe met Princess Anne.

Chloe and Princess Anne
Chloe is second from left, next to Rashid Bayat from PYF

Tuesday 20 November

Kyla from the Better Lives project joined Coventry City Council engagement staff for a training day on ‘Co-Production in Public Engagement and Consultation Principles and Practices.’

Grapevine was offered a place on the course as one of the council’s community partners and Kyla can now share what she learned with the rest of the team.

Kyla training course


Wednesday 21 November

Project worker Molly from Teenvine Plus and Warwickshire Empowerment Service has started collecting Christmas shoe boxes to donate to Coventry Open Christmas – a project that provides shelter and food each year to the homeless and lonely over the festive period.

Each shoebox (or alternative small cardboard box) can contain items such as toiletries, sweets, hats and gloves – basically anything that might help someone feel a little brighter on Christmas morning. Click the link above if you’re interested in joining in.


Thursday 22 November

Help and Connect’s Michelle finished making her first knitted blanket for premature babies born at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire.

The weekly handicraft group at Bell Green Library taught her how – next on the list are tiny cardigans! Join in each Thursday from 10am – 12 noon (50p for tea/coffee). Michelle attends so she can make connections for people with a learning disability in Coventry who don’t use formal services.

Michelle baby blanket


Local photographer and friend of Grapevine Alan Van Wijgerden released another of his 50 one-minute films of Coventry people talking about what they’re up to – this time featuring Grapevine’s Melissa!

See what she has to say about how her health problems set her on a path to combining creativity and bringing people together in the shape of Feel Good Community.


Friday 23 November

Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists posted pics of their evening out on Thursday to Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market – looks like they had a ‘fantastisch’ time!

Aged 13 to 18 and passionate about fighting for disabled people’s right to a good life? Contact the team at admin@grapevinecovandwarks.org

Read what Stay Up Late had to say about CYA’s recent stay to Brighton here.

Teenvine at German Market


Monday 26 November

Act Build Change founder Steph Leonard (and regular Grapevine trainer) is visiting to shadow and advise on our work on anti-isolation movement Connecting for Good – look out for a new video coming out very soon featuring one of the people we’ve met.

It is also the first day of a full team (Ben, Alex and Helena) working on the new Community Powered Advocacy service in Warwickshire.

This fresh and innovative service is aimed at helping people with a ‘vulnerability’ overcome their immediate problems, build their capacity to speak up for themselves and connect them to other people in their community. Watch this space as the team start connecting with other services and the people they are there to help.

Looking forward to seeing what the rest of this week might bring.

GV x

The Story of Our Future – two-year inquiry unveils findings

20 November 2018.

This week sees the findings of a two-year independent inquiry into the future of civil society in England revealed for the first time.

The report is the culmination of discoveries made through the course hundreds of workshops, meetings and events and the thoughts, hopes and academic research gleaned from over 3,000 people.

“A stronger civil society is essential for our shared futures.” (Julia Unwin)

Why produce the report?

The need for a ‘big conversation’ was recognised to try to address the many divisions we are now seeing in our society – politically, socially, geographically and between different generations.

It was time to “re-energise and renew” the social fabric in a way that reconnected people in spite of these divides by talking to organisations, groups, movements and networks across the country.

Here is Julia Unwin, Chair of Civil Society Futures to explain in more detail.

What were the key findings?

Read the report foreword by Julia Unwin here.

The final reports can be downloaded here.

What next?

It is hoped the inquiry will enable civil society to effectively support the next decade of a changing society. That although our expectations of organisations and institutions are changing and our demands on their practices and accountability are increasing, the energy all that creates can be used to bring about positive change.

Civil society involves everyone and its future depends on us.

To learn more about how Grapevine is working in this shifting landscape across Coventry and Warwickshire, choose a link below:

Job vacancy: Journey Guide (Jobs Broker and Coach)

14 November 2018.

We are looking for a personable self-organiser to be a Journey Guide, working with employers, organisations and people with learning disabilities in their search for sustainable employment.

The post comes under Accelerate – a Building Better Opportunities project funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery, through the Big Lottery Fund.

Could you be the supportive negotiator we are looking for? You’ll also need to be tenacious, patient and an effective communicator across the board.

Click here for more information on the role, interview dates, salary details and how to apply.

Closing date for applications is midday on Tuesday 4 December 2018.

To get more of an idea of what Accelerate is all about, visit their website here.

Remember remember the 8th of November!

Alice and Daniel

Monday 5 November 2018.

When Daniel Met Alice.

In August, Daniel was cycling through Spon End when he stumbled across a table, some coloured chalk and a collection of handwritten placards bearing individual messages of isolation and hope.

Standing at the table was Alice from Grapevine and Daniel felt compelled to stand still and take it all in. This was exactly what the silent megaphone event was designed to do – stop people in their tracks.

Following that first serendipitous chat with Alice, Daniel came to the Connecting for Good Ideas Factory the following month and sat with a group of strangers who were talking about how better communication between agencies, organisations and people could go a long way to helping Coventry people feel less socially isolated.

Since the event, Daniel has taken the ‘People’s Directory’ idea and run with it. He’s been spreading the word on the #connectingforgood movement, drawing both professionals and public in with his boundless enthusiasm for making positive change.

This Thursday (8 November) marks the next milestone for Daniel – who is now leading a community of people who care about better communications – with the first Communications Forum, spawned from those original group discussions at the Ideas Factory.

This is Invitation > Idea > Leadership > Event > Progress in action and it’s exciting to see!

So, would you like to see some sort of directory created that would make finding out what is going in Coventry easier? It could include communities and groups to join, hobbies and activities that are happening, opportunities to take part in positive causes, events to attend (or even help run!), or simply services that offer advice and support.

How could we do this? What would YOU do? If you have ideas, come to the Communications Forum! Everyone is welcome.

Date: Thursday 8 November

Time: 6pm – 7.30pm

Place: Change Grow Live (CGL), 1A Lamb Street, Coventry CV1 4AE

Click here to join the event on Facebook or simply come along.

There will also be free food provided by Arabian Bites – a vegan café specialising in Middle Eastern cuisine, staffed by refugees.

Contact Alice if you would like any further information: agroux@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509206

Sometimes what we need is right on our doorstep

Woodland Halloween doorstep

24 October 2018.

We’re hosting our first Connecting for Good Social Living Room next week and we want you to be there!

Woodland Halloween doorstep
Not a fan of trick or treaters? Join us! (Photo by Bee Felten on Unsplash)

Connecting for Good is a movement of people in Coventry who care about the issue of loneliness and isolation in our society and want to make it better.

Most people will feel this way at some point in their lives – perhaps when looking for work, whilst grieving the loss of someone close, on becoming a new or single parent, or arriving to live in a city where everyone is a stranger. Or for some other reason. It doesn’t matter because feeling lonely doesn’t always need a reason to appear.

That’s why we’re offering warm drinks, sweet treats and interesting conversations about how we can get people together to keep having adventures in life. Everyone is welcome and we will always want to hear your story if you’re happy to tell it. You can do a lot or a little but we want you to come. This is a free event.

Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday 31 October

Time: 5-7pm

Place: Theatre Absolute, 38 City Arcade, Coventry CV1 3HW

Event on Facebook – click here

If you’d like to find out more first, contact one of the team for a chat:

Jess – jknight@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509204

Alice – agroux@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509206

Mel – msmith@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 02476 631040

Alarmingly low uptake of annual health checks triggers national campaign

17 October 2018.

People with learning disabilities in Coventry and Warwickshire are still not having annual health checks with GPs and Grapevine’s H-Team is campaigning to change this on a national level.

H-Team trip to London
Sam fresh off the train from London

They generally have poorer physical and mental health and a significantly lower life expectancy than the general population. But it doesn’t need to be this way. Many premature deaths could be avoided if health conditions were diagnosed promptly and treated effectively.

Annual health checks should be offered to patients registered with participating GPs who are aged 14 and over and who are known to the local authority social services department primarily because of their disability.

General health is discussed in detail during the check and the interaction is used to detect and treat unmet health needs and help manage any pre-existing ones.

The low uptake of annual health checks is a national problem and that is why H-Team project workers Sam and Kyla took a trip to London this week to join an action group workshop of professionals, including many from NHS England. The meeting was initiated by the team’s desire to turn their local frustrations into change at a national, system level.

NHS England’s clinical lead for the ‘Learning Disability Transforming Care Programme’, Kevin Elliott, is leading the action group to start making real changes to the way GPs promote annual health checks and to raise their awareness of their significance in saving lives – from empowering communities to new regulations to training to IT.

Sam says: “We deliver annual health check sessions to our peers, generating an awareness of what they are, their importance and informing them of their rights.

“We have also worked closely with the Central England Law Centre in unpicking the law around health checks and people’s entitlements and rights – spreading this knowledge to parents and carers; giving them tools to help them request the service for the person they care for.

“We have been working with our local hospitals and now our Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to develop and deliver awareness sessions to health professionals so they are confident in engaging with a person with a learning disability when they come into their GP practice or hospital.

“And now we have taken the first step in taking our campaign to a national level, attending the workshop to take action on how we can improve this issue from a national perspective.”

Health is everybody’s responsibility and it is time to make progress on removing some of the inequalities that get in the way of access to the health care that is available for all.

The action group next meets in early December for updates and a focus on training and a competency framework.

Shout out for help!

If you or someone you know has a learning disability and is interested in joining the H-Team to help make your peers more aware of taking care of their health and wellbeing, please get in touch!

Call Sam on 02476 631040 extension 112 or email skeoghcollins@grapevinecovandwarks.org

PM launches first Government strategy on loneliness

Just mates

16 October 2018.

Yesterday (15 October) the Prime Minister Theresa May launched the first cross-Government strategy to tackle the very real problem of loneliness.

This strategy recognises the huge challenge we face with loneliness in our society and its implications on our health.

Lonely man
Loneliness affects people of all ages and backgrounds

From social prescribing to community activities, to teaching children about the importance of relationships in school, to postal workers checking up on lonely people on their patch – there are some big plans here: www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-launches-governments-first-loneliness-strategy

In Coventry we’re already up and running with our own social movement against isolation – Connecting for Good – funded by the Big Lottery.

The next Connecting for Good event is a ‘Social Living Room’ on 31 October where you can come for a cup of something warm, a slice of something sweet and some hearty conversation about how we join together to keep having adventures. The venue, Theatre Absolute, was formerly a fish and chip shop restaurant in the city centre and is now an award-winning theatre company.

It could be a good way to spend Halloween, especially if you’re not keen on trick or treaters!

Could you go a week without seeing or talking to anyone? Watch this film by the Campaign to End Loneliness to get a sense of what life is like for over half a million older people in the UK.

Contact the Connecting for Good team today to join in:

Jess – jknight@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509204

Alice – agroux@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509206

Mel – msmith@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 02476 631040

Connecting for Good logo

World Mental Health Day – Cathleen’s story of isolation

Older lady side view

10 October 2018.

#WorldMentalHealthDay2018

10 October marks the annual World Mental Health Day, when people and organisations everywhere raise awareness, show support and encourage others to take time to look after their mental wellbeing.

Cathleen's quote on loneliness

With a constant drip feed of news about the effects of loneliness and isolation on mental health – and ultimately physical health too – we are all more aware than ever of this unseen epidemic. Many also recognise that loneliness and isolation can affect any of us at any time.

We’re trying to help address the problem in Coventry through Connecting for Good – a movement of people who are or have been affected by social isolation in a myriad of different ways. The single parent, the refugee, the job seeker, the person with a disability or long term health condition, the new mother, the university student… The list has no limitations. None of us are immune.

So today on World Mental Health Day, we’re telling Cathleen’s story. Please take a couple of minutes to read it (thank you to Cathleen for sharing) and then perhaps contact our team. Their details are below and they’d love to hear from you!

“Often people pass you by like you’re just a shadow.

“If only they’d smile and say hello, you could smile back and give a moment.”

Cathleen is 87 and lives in rural Ireland. However, she is no stranger to Coventry. In fact, she moved here with her family in the 1950s at the age of 21, leaving her home in Dublin behind.

Having raised her family while Coventry was rebuilt from the ashes of the Second World War, Cathleen moved once again – this time to Northern Ireland in the 1990s to help her son care for two of her grandchildren.

The children grew up and then Cathleen’s husband passed away in 2015, leaving her living in the sleepy coastal town of Ballycastle with no real sense of purpose to each new day.

Grey house

From head of the household with four children – all grown up now with jobs as social workers, a nurse and a head teacher – Cathleen faces life with six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren living nearly 300 miles away in Coventry and the long distance lines of communication that come with it.

Her granddaughter Jo says: “Gran is not from the North… she is a Dubliner. She is a Catholic but surrounded by Protestant towns. She has no roots or connections in Ballycastle. She has her sewing group and my uncle does what he can but it breaks my heart to know she’s largely on her own.”

Although Cathleen is not in Coventry, Connecting for Good will still offer as much support as it can. Could you do the same closer to home for others like Cathleen? Or do you recognise yourself, a neighbour or relative in her story? If so, get in touch today:

Jess – jknight@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509204

Alice – agroux@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509206

Mel – msmith@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 02476 631040

For tips on everyday living and staying well, visit www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/world-mental-health-day

The #HelloYellow campaign also supports children and young people’s mental health on 10 October – for more information on this click here.

Connecting for Good is funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

(Pictures are stock images, not of Cathleen or her home).