What do an 18th century former coal storage bunker and a group of young Coventry activists have in common? Well, they’re combining next month to host a live gig like no other at the heart of the city’s Canal Basin.
For those who don’t know, Coventry Youth Activists (or CYA as they’re known) are a group of young disabled people who want to say “CYA” to the inequalities faced by themselves and others.
They identify the issues that are important to them, give them a good shake and come up with campaigns that set about changing these barriers.
The #CYASaturdays Presents… gig on 30 March is one facet of their latest campaign to challenge the disheartening statistic that one in three young people spend less than an hour outside their home on Saturday.
The Saturday night showcase – on a Saturday of course! – features local talent in the shape of bands Duck Thieves, Izeidi Izeidi and CYA’s own singer/songwriter/guitarist Lily Hayes.
Lily says: ““I have autism but I won’t let it stop me from being a singer. It’s who I am and is part of me.”
The night will be compered by actor / theatre maker duo Rishard Beckett and Richard Walls.
The gig is accessible to all and tickets are just £4 in advance or £6 on the door. The venue is The Tin Music and Arts – a charitable organisation committed to fostering art, creativity and talent at the Canal Basin and throughout the city.
So come out and support what will be a great night as well as a good cause. There’ll be music, laughter and a few surprises and above all you’ll be making a group of young activists very happy! We want as many people there as possible who don’t usually get out and about on a Saturday too.
The next generation of social workers from Coventry University have been getting an insight into people with a learning disability directly from the very people who know the most about it!
Grapevine’s Sam and a core group of people with different learning disabilities who make up the H Team visited the university last month for the innovative session.
The ‘H’ stands for Health and that is what the team is all about – educating peers, professionals and services alike on how to stay healthy and well when you have a learning disability.
This advice and training is vital for a section of the community proven to have generally poorer physical and mental health and a significantly lower life expectancy than the rest of the population.
But it wouldn’t be this way if there was greater uptake on annual health checks with GPs, promptly diagnosed health conditions, effective treatment and more informed self care.
And improvements can always be made in the way health and social care professionals communicate with people with a learning disability – hence the need for some interesting training right at the beginning of a career in social work.
During the Coventry University awareness session, students were able to get to know the seven members of the H Team, each one with his or her own unique story, likes and dislikes.
Games and quizzes helped break down any barriers, including one called ‘Scaredy Pants’ where the students wrote their fears on paper pants hung on a make-shift washing line.
Each fear was examined with H Team participants giving students advice and strategies to help overcome them. Some fears were even reflected on both sides – for example, a fear of communicating in a way that was not understood or misinterpreted. The students didn’t want to make a person uncomfortable and the H Team didn’t want to appear ‘stupid’ for not understanding.
The ‘New Perspective’ game then sees society’s labels discarded on the floor and ‘Mum’ or ‘Activist’ (and many others) used instead. Team members said they are not defined by their disability.
By the end of the session, the students and H Team were working together to develop an assessment tool that would equip professionals to phrase questions in different ways and encourage them to consider individuals holistically, particularly including their mental health. Social prescribing and making community connections may be things not previously considered for example.
“We got great feedback,” Sam said. “The students loved the session – having the H Team there to talk to them and give them advice was better than any pen exercise! It was learning through a first-hand experience that they will always remember.”
H Team sessions like this continue on a regular basis throughout the year and the H Team is always looking for new members to bring diversity and knowledge to their group.
Longer term projects such as Help and Connect and Better Lives have gone from strength to strength, building the capacity of individuals and families to lead the lives they want and deserve.
Accelerate continues to help people with a learning disability or autism find secure, paid work.
System change in Willenhall through the Ignite partnership with Central England Law Centre has made tangible in-roads into nurturing strong communities who get early and effective help when they need it.
And the young people involved in Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists have progressed in leaps and bounds throughout the year with – amongst other things – appearances on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire radio, a performance at the Godiva Festival and a weekend away to see a gig in Brighton! Phenomenal.
The Big Plan is helping young people, alongside their families and friends, to think creatively about and plan for the life that they want after school.
Plus our involvement in Warwickshire is expanding from Warwickshire Empowerment Service with the new Community Powered Advocacy service, aimed at people with a ‘vulnerability’ not receiving services from social care.
Not to mention our CEO Clare Wightman travelling the length and breadth of the country making sure we’re at all the right tables for change.
There is also some exciting news coming in January on two more new projects. Fingers crossed it is all we hope for.
Wishing you a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year from everyone at Grapevine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Read what Stay Up Late had to say about CYA’s recent stay to Brighton here.
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.
Last Friday’s Children in Need Appeal Show brought in £50.6m according to BBC News – taking the total amount of money raised since fundraising began 38 years ago in 1980 to over £1 billion.
Here at Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire we are part-funded by Children in Need to run our Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) projects to give young people with disabilities opportunities to forge friendships, build confidence and independence, and unlock their potential to live a full, happy life bolstered by a strong network and great experiences.
Thank you to everyone who makes this possible through their donations to fundraising – we couldn’t do it without you.
Here are a couple of quick glimpses into the fun and innovation that surrounds CYA’s activities… the first to mark their one-year anniversary last month and the second is their recent weekend away to watch a gig in Brighton.
This week marks 1 YEAR since CYA began 😲 In that time CYA has grown 8 times bigger, put on 5 major events, made it onto local radio 4 times & gathered over 400 followers on social media! We can’t wait to show you what we have planned for the next year 🙌 #CYASaturdayspic.twitter.com/2nC0sTBjBr
Nine excited young people are off on a road trip to Brighton this weekend – thanks to a group of slightly crazy open water swimmers and their relay fundraising effort across the English Channel.
The #swimandtonic crew of six – part of a larger group who connect around swimming in quarries, lakes, rivers, lidos, seas and basically anything deeper than a puddle that is outdoors – took to the water last year to raise funds so a group of young disabled people could enjoy a mini break with their friends.
Now the trip is almost a reality, and is just three days away from happening!
This Friday (9 November), the group of nine Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) plus Coleman, Molly, Chloe and Kirsty from Grapevine, will take two mini buses down to Brighton where they’ll enjoy two nights in a hotel, a meeting with Gig Buddies and a gig.
The Sussex-based Gig Buddies project (there are others around the country) is run by the charity Stay Up Late and matches a person with a learning disability with a volunteer buddy who likes similar music so they can enjoy live music together.
For some of the 13 to 18 year olds, this will be their first overnight stay without a parent or guardian, their first solo road trip and their first gig. The break gives them the opportunity to experience all of these things with their friends, building confidence and independence along the way.
Two mini buses to get them there and back are necessary because the four wheelchair users in the group couldn’t be accommodated on the same train.
We hope you’ll join us in wishing them a safe journey and a great weekend.
Look out for a follow-up post where we’ll be sharing photos and videos from the trip and also what the young people thought about the experience.
Find out more about Mel (Grapevine’s Deputy CEO) and the #swimandtonic crew here.
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.
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!
A group of young disabled people and their families are working together to design their ideal future upon leaving school, with a wider network of support that can help make it a reality.
‘The Big Plan’ started last week with the first of 12 sessions running until just before Christmas.
Each young person attends six of these evening sessions – either opting to come to the Monday or Wednesday group each week – alongside their families, and friends in many cases.
The first half an hour of each session brings the group together to share food and get to know one another. The remaining two hours are dedicated to building their plans through fun, creative exercises which consider their future potential.
Putting everyone in a room together extends their family and friends network to include the other young people, their families and their friends – most of them going through very similar experiences in life at the same time.
But Grapevine wants to boost those numbers even further to include ‘group supporters’ – people not previously linked to the young people who can offer a listening ear, draw out their all-important ideas and above all ensure their voice is amplified throughout the process.
Group supporters need to be flexible in supporting them in whatever way is needed.
The Big Plan is coordinated by Teenvine – the youth branch of Grapevine – and funded by BBC Children in Need as a project to help young people of 18 years and younger overcome the effects of disadvantages they face.
Could you spare a couple of hours one evening each week over the next few weeks (last session runs on 17 December) to help guide these young people through a period of transition and see them emerge on the other side armed with a big plan for a beautiful life?
Sessions run at Backhaus & Co at FarGo Village in Coventry from 6pm – 8.30pm.
If so, please call Chloe, Coleman or Molly on 02476 631040 extension 113 or 106.