H Team brings learning disability to life for trainee social workers

The H Team

15 January 2019.

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 Team
Here come the H Team!

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.

If this could be you or someone you know, please call Sam on 02476 631040 extension 112 or email skeoghcollins@grapevinecovandwarks.org

Job vacancy

We are looking for a part-time Help and Connect worker to work 18.5 hours per week on the H Team. To find out more about this varied and rewarding role, click here.

We’re hiring… Creators, builders, inspirers apply within!

Jess from Connecting for Good tells her story to the crowd

15 January 2019.

This week we’re advertising not one, not two, but THREE great jobs working here at Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire.

Two (possibly three – read on to find out more) of the posts are as community organisers taking action against loneliness and isolation in Coventry.

The third is on the Help and Connect project’s H Team, working to educate people with learning disabilities – plus the professionals and services who help – about how to stay healthy and well.

We’ll be adding a post later today on a day in the life of the H Team and their amazing peer-led initiatives. So for now, let’s focus on community organising at Grapevine…

The first role is full-time, working 37 hours week flexibly to meet the needs of the Connecting for Good project.

Connecting for Good logo

Connecting for Good launched a three-year Big Lottery funded social movement against isolation in our city in August of last year.

Over 60 people from all walks of life joined us near the train station for a Walk and Talk to spark conversations about the issue, with a generous helping of inspirational stories and performances added to the mix.

Local press came along for the ride and made a video of the event which you can watch here.

Since then, the team has been listening, gathering and linking people and communities to take on isolation together. After all, it can affect anyone at any time – no-one is immune.

Does this sound like a cause you could care about too? If so, get applying. The closing date is 12 noon on 8 February 2019.

The same closing date applies to the other one – or two – roles as a community organiser for Self Care Social.

Self Care Social vision

We are flexible on whether this is one full-time 37-hour post or two 18.5 hour posts. The most important thing is to find people who can build relationships and mobilise others to take action.

In this case, we are talking about the specific community of people in Coventry with a chronic or long-term health condition.

Self Care Social’s vision sums it up best as ‘creating a culture of connected self-care’ where people feel supported no matter what life throws at them.

If you’d like to apply for one of these jobs, we encourage you to check out our website and social channels to help you understand what these movements mean to the people in them.

Good luck!

£97k coming to Coventry to boost emerging culture of self care

7 January 2019.

Grapevine is leading the charge against loneliness for local people with long term health conditions, thanks to £97,261 in new government funding.

The sizeable slice of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) £11.5m pie is one of only two grants in the Warwickshire area (the other being the People’s Pantry in Nuneaton and Bedworth), with several more awarded across the West Midlands.

99,000 people in Coventry have a long term health condition
Artwork by @FeelGoodMel

The Building Connections Fund provides a cash injection for 126 much-needed organisations and projects throughout England that are finding innovative ways to tackle the ongoing social issue of loneliness.

The fund was created in 2018 in partnership between the government, Big Lottery Fund* and the Co-op Foundation.

Minister for Loneliness, Mims Davies, said: “There is no one cause of loneliness and therefore no one solution. That is why we are working alongside a broad range of businesses, voluntary organisations and local councils to ensure that those who feel alone are best supported.”

Happiness Walk
A Self Care Social ‘Happiness Walk’

The announcement about Grapevine’s successful bid came just before Christmas and will help bolster growing Coventry-based initiative Self Care Social.

The first Self Care Social event took place in July 2018 at Coventry University’s Social Enterprise Hub and has been gathering momentum ever since.

The movement’s vision is of a connected culture of self care for the estimated 99,000 – or approximately one in three – residents in Coventry who have a long term health condition.

The vision itself was co-created by some of the people it is aimed at – including former teacher Melissa Smith, who was forced to find an alternative career after being diagnosed with the rare spinal condition Symptomatic Tarlov Cyst Disease in 2014.

Common shared issues
Members of the movement have shared the common issues they face daily

Melissa went on to secure a role as a community organiser for Grapevine through the Better Health, Better Care, Better Value programme and build her own social enterprise Feel Good Community.

She and the Self Care ‘socialites’ hope to gather more people in from the fringes to support one another’s ideas, build collective action for positive change and most important of all, make the journey together. The Building Connections funding will help them do that.

If you or someone you know would like to get involved in Self Care Social – sharing self care tips, making friends, telling your story to inspire others, organising social events… making cake – visit Self Care Social on Facebook or drop us a line here and we’ll pass your details on. There are free events coming up in January and February.

Read more about how Self Care Social got started on the Feel Good Com website here.

*The Big Lottery Fund becomes the National Lottery Community Fund from 30 January.

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

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).

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.

Who feels lonely? BBC survey results revealed

2 October 2018.

Yesterday the BBC Radio 4 revealed the results of the world’s largest study on loneliness, in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection.

For the BBC, the Loneliness Experiment revealed nine key findings from 55,000 responses to the survey. For us, five of those seem the most important. Why? Well, firstly because we are starting a movement in Coventry called Connecting for Good.

Connecting for Good logo

It is funded with £500k from the Big Lottery Fund so that over the next three years we can create communities where people are truly connected to each other to end isolation. Our approach will put the emphasis on unlocking people’s capabilities to help themselves and those around them.

If you haven’t already heard about it, here are some quick links to get you up to speed:

Below is a two-minute video by BBC Radio 4 that captures the results of their Loneliness Experiment.


© copyright 2018 BBC

Secondly, the five findings that are particularly relevant at this stage of our Connecting for Good journey are:

  • Young people are the group who feel the loneliest – although young adulthood (16-24) can in retrospect be a lonely time of transition for most people and isn’t necessarily only as a result of the external forces of modern life.
  • People who feel discriminated against are most likely to feel lonely – this includes people with a disability or long term condition, some of the people we want to join our movement.
  • People feel ashamed about feeling lonely. We want to start conversations about isolation and loneliness so it is no longer taboo and we can talk about how to make it better.
  • People who feel lonely score higher on empathy. Being involved in Connecting for Good is protective. Everyone benefits. Everyone contributes. Everyone cares because they understand what loneliness feels like.
  • People who say they often feel lonely report poorer health. Public Health is closely involved in our movement and health is one of the main reasons behind our successful funding bid.

Get in touch to get involved with #connectingforgood:

Jess – jknight@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509204

Alice – agroux@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 07776 509206

Mel – msmith@grapevinecovandwarks.org / 02476 631040

One year on from first CYA session

CYA celebrates first anniversary

1 October 2018.

This week marks one year since the first Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) session at Grapevine.

CYA at the Godiva Festival
CYA at the Godiva Festival

If you don’t already know, CYA is a youth democracy and citizenship group that raises awareness of barriers in society faced by young disabled people – galvanising their response as a campaigns group.

In just one year, they have grown eight times in size, put on five major events – including appearing at Coventry’s Godiva Festival for the first time this year – and spread the word further with four appearances on local radio. Over 400 people follow their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Their latest campaign is reducing the statistic that one in three young disabled people spend less than an hour outside their family home on a Saturday, often restricted by access to public transport and concerns over going out alone.

The first step for #CYASaturdays was holding an open Ideas Factory at Coventry city centre’s Herbert Art Gallery in September, where 26 people came up with six ideas to start tackling this issue.

CYA Ideas Factory
The CYA Ideas Factory

The ideas – to be revealed during course of the campaign – included planning a trip to a gig together on, you guessed it, a Saturday.

The group also shared stories and came up with words associated with what a young person’s life should look like.

Words like “vibrant”, “well-lived”, “fulfilling”, “care-free” and “full” will now be added to the giant C, Y and A doodled by artists Melissa and Alan at CYA’s recent successful appearance at the Godiva Festival.

Here’s to another great year of “when I say C, you say Y, A!”