Inclusive cities – a new era of action for inclusion

30 May 2018.

This Friday (1 June) our Grapevine CEO Clare Wightman takes to the stage again to talk about Grapevine’s ongoing work across Coventry and Warwickshire – this time at the Inclusion International World Congress in Birmingham.

Clare Wightman

This 17th World Congress takes place over three days (30 May – 1 June), bringing together people and organisations from all over the world to influence how inclusion can become a reality for people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

The event, held at the International Convention Centre, will be a forum for self-advocates, families and professionals to learn from and inspire one another to achieve this mutual aim.

Clare’s topic on the event’s final day ‘Inclusive cities’, examines how people, families and organisations can form civic partnerships – working with political and professional leaders to make our cities better for everyone.

Here is an excerpt of the paper Clare will present for the first time at this event, co-written with Lucie Stephens and David Towell.

The ‘Cities for all’ research paper* includes an interesting and accurate reflection of part of Grapevine’s current work with learning disabled people. It was originally founded in 1994 as a project to offer a drop-in centre for people with intellectual disabilities.

If you would like to know more, read on!

Cities for all: Disabled people as partners in making our towns and cities better for everyone

“Put at its simplest, Grapevine is a team, at the heart of local communities, working to change things so that those at most risk of exclusion can help make their community a better, fairer and more welcoming place for everyone.”

“…Today we work with many others facing disadvantage: young people, migrants, families in crisis and many groups of disabled people and their families.

“…If people can get the resources they need and can make the best use of public services, then they can shape their own lives. At different stages of finding their own paths to community, people may need different kinds of support, all of which we try to make available. We characterise the main kinds of support as:

  • Partnership – Some people need someone along with them on the journey, at least for a while, to keep them strong and hopeful.
  • Preparation – Some people need help to prepare for personal change and transition, to get inspiration, support to plan or practical assistance.
  • Self-direction – Some people just need to access information and networks to find the right resources for themselves and their families.

“…Over [this] 20 years at Grapevine, citizen advocacy has become community advocacy. This is not just because the community is itself critical to every person’s ability to lead a valued life. It is also because the community needs these different voices and experiences in order to become fully itself.

“The goal is not just that the individual becomes part of the community; the goal is that the community becomes more truly what it should be, a place that welcomes, supports, and is in turn nourished by, all of its members.”

*Click here to read the full paper in the Centre for Welfare Reform’s library.

For more information about the Inclusion International World Congress click here.


Adventure Holly!

23 May 2018.

Can you think of a great day you’ve had? It might be a special birthday party, a trip to a theme park, a graduation, a birth, a wedding or the view from your sun lounger somewhere hot and relaxing.

For 20-year-old Holly, her ‘great day’ would be going to town on her own to meet her friends.

Refreshment break!

So this week, Grapevine’s Naomi took Holly on a little challenge around Coventry city centre – sitting in the places where she feels most anxious, navigating her way around the streets and locating which bus stop takes her back home. The trip began with a boost from some extra calories in a local coffee shop (pictured).

These seemingly simple tasks and freedoms are taken for granted by so many but for Holly, who has a learning disability, they can feel quite daunting. She’s never been to town without her parents.

Naomi and Holly’s next outing on ‘Adventure Holly’ will be returning to town to try going into a few shops and perhaps buying one or two items. This will help build Holly’s confidence in dealing with people and using money.

This time, Holly will meet Naomi in town and walk to the meeting point from her bus stop. She’s chosen a place where she’s comfortable to meet, not too far away from where the bus drops her off.

If she can conquer these challenges one at a time, her ‘great day’ might grow closer to becoming a reality. But Naomi will guide her each step of the way, at Holly’s own pace.

Holly’s adventure is being made possible through our Help and Connect project which aims to give local people with a learning disability the opportunities, connections and confidence to create building blocks towards a better, more independent future.

Rain doesn’t stop play for Feel Good in the Park

Some of the crew getting crafty

17 April 2018.

The recent Easter washout wasn’t enough to prevent a 33-strong group (plus our Feel Good Ambassadors and one particularly enthusiastic dog) from attending April’s Feel Good in the Park.

As a quick ‘crafty’ alternative to a long walk round the Memorial Park in the rain, the group gathered inside to create pom pom animals, helping hands cards, Feel Good banners and scratch doodles – ably supported by crowdsourced cake, sweet treats and hot drinks.

Good turnout in spite of the rain!

And a walk was still on the cards… meaning those who participated in the 4 April event combined having a go at some indoor creative pursuits with some much-needed time in the fresh air in the park.

Follow the Feel Good Community on Facebook for details of future events and if you have any ideas or want to get involved in planning or hosting a Feel Good activity get in touch with Melissa or Naomi by email.

The Feel Good Community is a people-powered movement in Coventry helping those with a long-term health condition take healthy, creative steps towards feeling good.


International Women’s Day

International Women's Day Creative Workshop Photo
For the second event celebrating IWD in Nuneaton, Mel from Escape Arts led an art session with folk  at the Ramsden Centre.
The group had great fun with paints, brushes, stamps and sponges to create a piece of artwork to be displayed at a series of IWD events over the next two weeks.
We are proud to say lots of mess was made, laughter filled the room and everyone enjoyed the experience.
The session was made possible by Dawn from Grapevine Empowerment Service and Maxine who is the Community Development officer for Nuneaton and Wembroook. It was a great example of partnership working within the local community.
Find out what else is going on and how you can get involved.

Good and Bad Help

Purpose and confidence can transform lives. We know this but how do we know that what we’re doing has a positive, sustainable effect on people and communities?

Helping for the sake of helping can sometimes result in ‘bad help’ that offers short term fixes and fails to hand the reins back to individuals when they’re ready to take over.

This is what the Good Help Project hopes to clarify. The brainchild of Nesta, a global innovation foundation that backs new ideas to tackle big challenges, the project is bringing together case studies from all over the UK to help create a ‘good practice guide for good help’.

Grapevine is one of those case studies – alongside organisations such as The Stroke Association, British Lung Foundation, Mayday Trust, Whizz Kidz and many more. We’ve shared how our work in supporting young people with learning disabilities and the communities in which they live aims to enable everyone to get free of service dependency.

Clare spoke at the launch event in early February and hopes this project might signal a sea-change in the way social programmes are designed and delivered. The project’s seven characteristics of ‘good help’ will also provide public services with a barometer check on how they’re currently delivering these programmes.

Clare will also judge the forthcoming ‘Good Help Awards’ to search out the best of the best in services that are helping people take action.

Read more here:

Good and Bad Help

Our CEO, Clare Wightman, will be a keynote speaker on Tuesday 6 February when national innovation foundation Nesta and social impact lab OSCA bring together practitioners, policy makers, thinkers and funders in London to launch the Good Help report.

Major public service challenges – such as in social care, youth unemployment and long-term health conditions – require people to take action themselves. But many public services fail to work with people’s own sense of purpose and undermine rather than develop the confidence the need to do it.

Good Help explores great examples of how good services give people more control of their lives. It describes Grapevine helping others achieve their own personal goals by connecting them with people across the community.

 You can join the debate by viewing the live stream of the event at from 6pm, and by using the hashtag #Good&badhelp on Twitter. 


TeenVine Plus Family Get Together

In no particular order: Soup, dreams, families and a working microphone – Key ingredients for a successful get together.

Last night at Backhaus & Co there was a gathering of families brought together by our TeenVine Plus team.

We challenged them to think about the moral of the story told by Coleman.

Coleman telling his story

This set the scene for us to think about dreaming big for the lives of the TeenVine Plus young people.

One of the young people, Jacob, who is also one of our Coventry Youth Activis

ts, shared that his dream was to see and feel fairness. We couldn’t agree more!

If you would like to find out more about our TeenVine Plus Project follow along on FaceBook or Twitter



Connect for a kinder tomorrow – new approaches to loneliness.

I was lucky enough to be part of a discussion panel in July to help shape thinking  for the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission. I’m delighted to see today its call to Connect for a kinder tomorrow – new approaches to loneliness.

‘Starting a conversation each day in your neighbourhood can be a radical act of community service’ is advice that resonates strongly with me. We see 100s of people in crisis we know will have had no caring interaction with anyone in their communities that day or any other day.

Even though Graham had a job as a cleaner, Job Centre Plus were worried about him. They referred him to us. Graham wasn’t keen. He’s 57 and proud. He has a learning disability and hearing impairment. Eventually, he met Mia from Grapevine. Reluctantly, he allowed her to help. He really needed help – he was in a vulnerable situation.

He existed on £60 a week, lived on baked beans and never had the heating on in the house he occupied alone (he slept on the sofa under a pile of coats). Worse still, a man would take Graham to the building society and withdraw money – £500 at a time.

Graham wasn’t living in a special or residential group home. He rented his own home in an ordinary street in an ordinary bit of Coventry. This all happened in plain sight.

Mia was able to help Graham solve some problems. She arranged that the building society would contact her before handing over large sums. She sorted out Graham’s debts. But she was realistic about what she could achieve: ‘Yes, I can help sort things out. But what Graham needs is ordinary people in his life – people who will look out for him in the long term so these problems don’t keep coming back.’

Grapevine helped Graham start to move from a life on the margins. But he needs connections with ordinary people who care about him to avoid going back.

Cash strapped public services are exhausted,  our own often constrained by commissioning criteria. But other help is there, it just hasn’t been unlocked.

Frustrated by traditional service models we’ve searched for new solutions that unlock the pre-existing resources in communities and turned to social movements for inspiration. Social movements can teach us how to unlock people’s willingness to act together on a problem.

Social movements have shown us how we can go beyond the model that says every problem needs another project and instead put the emphasis on unlocking ordinary people’s capabilities to help themselves and those around them.

Next year Grapevine will spark a movement that tackles isolation among people like Graham in Coventry. Isolation makes people vulnerable to abuse, cruelty and loneliness. Communities where people are connected to each other end isolation. Our ambition is to end it for good.

The Commission publishes its manifesto on Friday. ‘We can’t afford not to act’.

Clare Wightman

The Big Paddle

The Big Paddle
Local community as equal partners in pool, play and support

Mel has been working with Coventry Sports Foundation to help encourage more people into the pool.  ‘The Big Paddle’ helps adults who are nervous about swimming to get confident in water. No swimming costumes were needed and help was on hand if needed. Tea and cake were provided afterwards as a treat for those who mastered their fears.

If you would like to try one of their FREE adult swimming lessons contact Natalie – for more details