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.

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

All-time Children in Need total hits £1bn – here’s how we spend our bit

CYA on Brighton Pier

19 November 2018.

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.

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.

Swimming upstream – how a Channel swim made a weekend in Brighton possible

Open water swimming

6 November 2018.

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.

Open water swimming
#swimandtonic crew diving into one of their adventures

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.

CYA at the Godiva Festival
CYA perform at this year’s Godiva Festival

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.

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

A ‘Big Plan’ for a beautiful life – and you can join in!

Big Plan group supporters

8 October 2018.

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.

Big Plan group supporters
Could you be a group supporter?

‘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.

Alternatively, drop them a line by email at:

candrew@grapevinecovandwarks.org

ckerr@grapevinecovandwarks.org

mgillespie@grapevinecovandwarks.org

Please note the sessions have started – the sooner we hear from you the better.

It’s not a movement if it doesn’t move without you…

14 September 2018.

It's not a movement if it doesn't move without you

At Grapevine, we don’t think of ourselves as providers of ‘social care’ or that we are a social care organisation.

If we aren’t these things, then what are we?

Grapevine CEO Clare Wightman explains: “We aid people and communities to find a voice, organise, advocate for shared interests, and bring about change.”

To read on, please click this link to her latest post on the Social Care Future blog – an informal, volunteer-run platform for people wishing to bring about major positive change in ‘social care’.

Holly’s final stop on her Grapevine journey to independence

Holly and her adventure road map

29 August 2018.

Money. Health. Independence. Travel.

Community. Relationships. Friends. Support.

Each one an everyday word with an important meaning and a potentially big impact on a person’s life – in this case, Holly’s.

Holly and her adventure road map
Holly and her adventure road map

Six months ago, 20-year-old Holly from Coventry embarked on her adventure with Grapevine’s Help and Connect team. This adventure set Holly on a path to acquire the knowledge, skills and support networks to take care of herself and take up life’s opportunities.

The journey has seen Holly meet and complete challenges along the way to help build her confidence and expose her to new experiences outside of the family home where she previously spent much of her time.

She’s visited the city centre with Grapevine’s Naomi (and without her parents), getting to know the location of shops and the bus stop (plus somewhere to pick up a nice hot chocolate – see Adventure Holly!).

She then moved on to travelling to town solo to meet Naomi, buying a few items and staying for lunch. She followed this excursion up by sorting out her own bus pass application – even seeking supporting evidence for her application from her doctor and checking its weight and postage at the Post Office to make sure it reached its destination. She was flying!

Holly's adventure continues
Holly’s adventure continues…

Now she has accepted her final challenge… to meet her friend in town on a Saturday completely independently. This challenge is the one we were working towards all along because it was Holly’s idea of a ‘great day’ when we asked her what those words meant to her.

These building blocks will pave the way for a bright future where Holly can be independent and feel empowered to make her own choices.

To support this, Naomi and Holly have drawn up a ‘road map’ with reminders of how far she has come and some blank space for Holly to fill with her new goals and achievements.

Those everyday words at the start of this article all feature on her road map and we can’t wait to see what’s around the next turn for her.

Read Adventure Holly! And Adventure Holly – the sequel! for more information on how Holly has progressed over the last few months.

The Help and Connect project is for people with a learning disability who don’t use any formal services in Coventry and cuts across four strands – staying healthy, staying safe, getting work and building friendships, connections and support networks.

Find out more the current breadth of Grapevine’s work across systems, communities, families and individuals here.

Connecting for Good – the story so far

Jess from Connecting for Good tells her story to the crowd

14 August 2018.

Last week marked the start of our Connecting for Good movement against isolation in Coventry. It’s been a busy few days since then so we’re taking a moment to reflect on the day and capture some of the great feedback, news coverage and photos.

Click here to view the story so far on Wakelet. Read all about it in the Coventry Telegraph here!

Thank you to everyone who joined us on Wednesday and please look out for more news soon. To get involved, email Jess, Dom, Alice or Mel from the team.