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.

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

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.

Community and opportunity on the up for people in Willenhall

Wood Side Family Hub

28 September 2018.

Sitting across the table from John Toman and Ravinder Dhadda, it is easy to get a strong sense of the time and energy they are committing to making the Ignite partnership a success.

John is the team leader of four Grapevine ‘connectors’ – himself included – and Ravinder, or Rav as she prefers to be called, is a legal advisor for Central England Law Centre. All are based primarily at Wood Side Family Hub – a Coventry City Council community facility in the heart of Willenhall.

John Toman from Ignite

Combining a constant flow of ‘connecting’ work with sound legal advice for local people since Ignite launched two years ago this month, John, Rav and the rest of the team are really starting to reap the rewards of their joint efforts, agreeing that this summer has been “the best six weeks so far”.

Those six weeks have seen Ignite trawling local primary school lost property stores for forgotten items of uniform and returning them to a clean, ready to be re-loved state with the use of the hub’s washing machine.

Local families coming to the usual Wednesday hub grub club (more on this later) were able to browse the collection and take whatever they needed – without having to come to a dedicated event and perhaps feel a little embarrassed about it.

The good will was subsequently returned when Mums and Dads who’d claimed items for their families, brought back their own outgrown uniforms for other parents to take home too.

Ravinder Dhadda from Ignite

Rav said: “There’s no stigma attached to needing larger-sized uniform all the time – children grow at a rapid rate – but sometimes people feel it anyway.

“Putting the clothing rail out at an event that was already happening allowed parents to take a look through, chat to their neighbours and experience a real sense of community with immediate effect.”

In fact, the uniform swap was such a success that next year John and Rav hope local groups such as Women of Willenhall (WoW) will take the helm, working with the community’s four primary schools and one another to keep it going.

“The hub had previously been seen as a ‘provider of needs’,” says John.

“But Ignite is showing how public services can partner with communities in new ways and as a result, people become more open to receiving help when they need it.”

Recently, that help has also included the aforementioned hub grub club to combat some of the ‘holiday hunger’ experienced by low income families feeding children all day during school holidays. This can often mean a choice between buying food and paying rent.

Some funding for the club came via the city council from national food poverty charity Feeding Britain and more came from direct food donations from the community.

The work complements existing help for families coming from St. John the Divine Church in Robin Hood Road and Midland Langer Service which provides basic food for communal settings in three Coventry temples.

Midland Langer Service has been bringing food to the Family Hub each week – creating a ‘takeaway’ style feel to Wednesday evenings where local people can socialise and enjoy a hot meal together.

Many children in Willenhall don’t have holidays away from home either, putting added pressure on parents to keep them entertained out of school. The Family Hub offers an outlet for this with an outdoor play area plus parties and workshops designed and delivered by groups such as Friends of Wood Side which was started up spontaneously by some local Mums.

During term time there’s a homework club on a Monday run by a local teenager.

These activities are just the tip of iceberg for the Ignite experiment, which has another two years left to run – with the hope of leaving a lasting legacy in Willenhall where public services act earlier, build community strength and release their capacity to solve many of their own problems as they arise.

The Ignite Partnership has its own dedicated website at www.cnccoventry.org.uk

Follow their activities and updates on Twitter @CoventryIgnite

Find out more about Coventry’s family hubs here.

The power of six – social action plan making headway in Stoke Aldermoor

28 September 2018.

Six women from Stoke Aldermoor are channelling their efforts into creating a social plan that could secure £250,000 of Big Lottery funding for their community.

The group meets weekly at the local community centre to exchange stories and ideas about how they might transform their neighbourhood for the better. They also meet once a month at Catherine’s Church for a social supper with another six residents who are interested in helping.

Welcome to Stoke Aldermoor Social Supper

Some of the forerunners from the ideas pooled so far include opening a one stop shop in the area for support; more training opportunities for young people; improved provision for families to build parenting skills and raise aspirations; a family walking group; a summer school; and the creation of an annual festival to celebrate Stoke Aldermoor’s diversity and boost community cohesion.

But this is no casual chat over a cuppa – these women with differing backgrounds, home lives and cultural heritage, are forging ahead with a joint plan to make these ideas happen. Women who may not otherwise have come into contact with one another had it not been for this common purpose.

Together they want to make the neighbourhood they inhabit better – moving away from issues of crime, drug use, community tensions, inadequate access to local travel networks and feelings of isolation towards realising their vision of a safer, more cohesive place to live.

They were connected by Mel and Dom from Grapevine who, together with Community Development Workers Lorna and Stef from Coventry City Council, had hundreds of conversations as well as listening events with local people.

Mel and Dom join the weekly sessions, rallying the women to keep their eyes on the prize and helping them develop the best plan to attract the funding they want.

They bolster the group with support from the further six ‘social supper’ residents plus four associate members – from the local library, Aldermoor Farm primary school, Stoke Aldermoor community centre and St Catherine’s Church.

Statutory agencies such as the city council are also remain in the mix, offering their specific expertise on neighbourhood services and local communities to the plan. More partner organisations have also expressed an interest in being involved.

Dom says: “Everyone involved is passionate about making change happen. But for a long while, Stoke Aldermoor’s experiences as a deprived area of Coventry has affected its residents and the perceptions of those outside of it.

“The frustration is how to change the area so people living there benefit from the same opportunities, neighbourliness and community pride we might see in other parts of the city.

“That doesn’t mean these things don’t already exist in Stoke Aldermoor – we just need to build them up.

“And part of that is the realisation they have the power to make the change themselves and sustain it for future generations.”

The future generation plays an important role in the present, as the group continues to develop its plan. The son and daughter of one of the Group members – who is originally from the Congo in Africa – have received listening training from Grapevine so they can in turn consult with 16-25 year olds in the area.

Dom continues: “We’re all trying to come at this with fresh eyes and an open agenda – what’s the dream and how can we get there? So who better to speak to young people than young people themselves?

“And just because there are currently six in the group, plus another ten supporting from the sidelines, we realise many more people care about the future of Stoke Aldermoor.

“We want them on board too so the voices of all sections of the community can be heard.”

The deadline for the social change plan to be submitted to Big Lottery Fund is the end of October – so watch this space for news!

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.

“Thought-provoking” plays demonstrate how to talk to families in need

Geese Theatre performing for Ignite Coventry

25 July 2018.

A troupe of actors have helped to highlight why some families in Coventry are needlessly living in poverty for an audience of the city’s social welfare practitioners.

The ‘First Meetings’ session was part of Coventry City Council’s Practice Week 2018 at the end of June which aimed to bring together Children’s and Adults Services teams for a week of learning, developing and challenging the way they do things.

Audience hands up
The audience getting involved

The session at Willenhall Social Club was put together by Ignite – a partnership formed by Grapevine and Central England Law Centre to demonstrate how vital first meetings are in creating lasting relationships that mean people or families can and will access ‘early help’.

Early help is support and services offered in the early stages of challenges or problems that families may face such as parenting, education, health or financial issues. The idea being that with early help, families overcome these problems, become stronger and no longer need ongoing support from services or reach crisis point.

Loosely based on real life cases, the performance focused on three stories exploring the kinds of problems families appear to have and the root causes which may lie beneath. Some causes are as preventable as mistakes in benefit payments, sanctions or missed opportunities to get financial support.

Audience watching
The performance focused thoughts on first meetings

Others situations will clearly be more multi-layered and complex but the golden thread running throughout is how the first interaction with a health, housing, education or social welfare professional can shape how help is offered and families’ enthusiasm to let the help in.

The ‘First Meetings’ actors were professionals supplied by Geese Theatre Company which specialises in interactive theatre, drama based group work, staff training and consultation services for the criminal justice system.

In feedback collated at the end of the “thought-provoking” and “inspirational” session, one participant commented it reminded them that “families are real people and their priorities are not always the same as ours.”

More than nine out of ten respondents agreed the session made them reflect on the importance of identifying people’s strengths as well as concerns.

The session also offered an opportunity to get to know and learn from other professionals, find out more about what services are out there and to reflect on the usefulness of creative thinking in finding answers.

It builds on work underway in Willenhall and city-wide through Ignite to raise awareness of the importance building good relationships early on and recognising poverty and its impact.

About Ignite

Central England Law Centre and Grapevine have formed ‘Ignite’ with the ambition of nurturing stronger communities in Willenhall who get early and effective help.

Our partners, Coventry City Council and WM Housing Group are using Ignite to learn how they can turn lives around and save money in the long run – changing how public services are delivered and needs met.

Ignite demonstrates how the public sector can partner with people and communities in new ways… acting earlier, building strengths and releasing capacity.

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.