We’re hiring! Journey guides apply within…

Advertising a job vacancy

8 July 2019.

We are looking for a personable self-organiser to take up the job of ‘Journey Guide’ (jobs broker and coach – ref no GV/JG2) on the Accelerate project!

It’s great timing actually – following on from Libby’s Accelerate story, which we told last week. Here is a short video which gives an idea of how rewarding the Journey Guide role can be and what a difference it makes to people’s lives.

The purpose of your job will be:

  • To inspire and enlist North Warwickshire employers and workplaces so that they will employ and support people who have learning disabilities.
  • To enable people with learning disabilities to seek and gain employment.

The salary is £24,799 to £26,317 for 37 hours per week (full time). Plus eight per cent pension contribution. The post runs until the end of March 2022.

The closing date for applications is midday on Tuesday 23 July 2019.

Interviews will be held on Tuesday 30 July 2019 (Wednesday 31 July will be held as a reserve day).

How to apply

Please visit charityjob.co.uk or WMJobs.co.uk to see supporting documents (including the job description and person specification).

You will need to download and complete an application form from CharityJob or WMJobs and email it to finance@grapevinecovandwarks.org

We encourage you to email your applications but if you don’t have email, post to:

C Allen, Grapevine, 123 Upper Spon Street, Spon End, Coventry CV1 3BQ

All applications must be fully completed and received at the email/postal address above by the closing date deadline. The deadline for submission of applications will be strictly adhered to.

Please do not send covering letters, CVs, certificates, testimonials or any other documents. They will not be considered. No applicant will be considered who has not submitted a completed application form including the personal submission. Applications will not be accepted by fax. Due to the volume of applications we will not be able to inform unsuccessful applicants at the application stage. Reminder – the post is until the end of March 2022.

Accelerate is a Building Better Opportunities Project funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund, delivered by a local partnership of organisations providing people with access to a wide range of job support services.

Libby ‘Accelerates’ into teaching career

2 July 2019.

A young woman from Coventry is heading for a bright future in teaching, thanks to a free employment support service designed to help people who are at a disadvantage when looking for paid work.

The need for the Accelerate project is clear when you see the stats. Just six per cent of adults with a learning disability or autism* are in paid employment, compared to 74 per cent of the general population aged 16-64.

Libby and her family turned to Alex Rigler from Grapevine for help following a few false starts entering the world of work after school. Grapevine forms part of the Accelerate partnership of local organisations providing coordinated employment support.

Alex explains: “Many employers have the best of intentions during the recruitment process but once a candidate with a learning disability or autism is successful in securing a role, support and reasonable adjustments to help them do their job are sometimes simply not in place or made flexible enough to adapt to any changes.”

Libby originally aspired to be an actress, studying drama at college in Stratford-upon-Avon. However, she soon realised that rehearsing and performing in front of an audience were two very different things. Working behind the scenes became more appealing.

After trying her hand at scriptwriting and some voluntary work at local Coventry station Radio Plus though, Libby and Alex tested the waters with retail. None were quite the right fit for Libby.

But everything changed after spotting an advertisement for lunchtime supervisors at Stivichall Primary School, close to Coventry’s War Memorial Park. Libby was keen to apply.

25th anniversary logo

The school welcomed them both in for a pre-interview visit before Libby faced a panel of three (with Alex there for support) and after a few initial nerves, sailed through.

Jayne Davies, school business manager, said: “We actually struck gold that day – finding two strong candidates who could co-manage the other lunchtime supervisors and bring their different strengths to the table.

“We looked beyond any possible challenges and necessary adjustments to see Libby’s potential as a leader and she has gone on to make such a difference to our school team.”

With lunchtimes running smoothly – including a suggestion book to help staff get involved in making positive changes – teachers have moved from rostered playground duties back into the classroom.

And Libby hasn’t stopped there, reigniting her interest in drama by running an after-school club for the children and also helping them gain their maths times tables badges week by week.

Libby said: “I understand from my own experiences how sitting tests can be hard for some and so I make earning the badges as fun as possible – with quick fire quizzes and laps around the room!”

Alex (left) and Libby

She’s also rapidly working her way through her part-time studies to become a teaching assistant. A course that Coventry City Council’s apprenticeship team extended from one to two years but is now not looking like it will take Libby that long.

Alex concludes: “Libby’s journey is a fantastic example of not being deterred by knockbacks and staying focused on the prize. Her anxieties were just getting the better of her during the recruitment process.

“The school continues to wrap their support around her when it’s needed – including providing a mentor from their leadership team – but they stand back when it’s her turn to take charge.

“Libby is a credit to herself and to the Accelerate project and I am proud to have played a part in what will hopefully be a promising teaching career.”

*who are known to their local authority in England.

About Accelerate

Accelerate is a partnership of local organisations that specialise in supporting people in Coventry and Warwickshire who would like to work but for various reasons find it hard to get a job and enjoy all the benefits that employment brings.

The partnership includes training providers, charities, housing associations, disability support, women’s only services, well-being and mental health organisations, enterprise start-up, childcare providers, local authorities, community radio and employer networks.

Accelerate is a Building Better Opportunities Project funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.

Find out more here.

Farewell 2018! You’ve been great…

Farewell 2018!

19 December 2018.

Our final post of 2018. And what a year it has been.

We’ve sparked new movements of people who care about an issue – Connecting for Good (isolation) and Self Care Social (long term health conditions/self care) – and grown existing ones with Feel Good Community.

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.

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

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!

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’.

“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.

A Better Way to help Chris and Margaret

A Better Way Network logo

4 July 2018.

Wednesday again and that can only mean one thing – another trip to London for our CEO Clare!

Insights for a Better Way report cover
Insights for a Better Way

This week she’s attending the launch of a book of essays – or ‘insights’ – for A Better Way.

A Better Way is a national network of social activists from the voluntary sector and beyond, focused around a shared vision of better services and stronger communities everywhere.

They want to use their ideas, knowledge and experiences to help make this vision a reality – where people and places are no longer treated as ‘passive recipients of services, as problems to be solved, or as failing communities’.

As a member of this network and contributor to the collection of essays’ latest volume, Clare will talk to the audience at the launch event about how building on strengths is better than focusing on weaknesses. Her story, ‘The Good and the Bad’ is illustrated through the experiences of Coventry couple, Chris and Margaret.

“Chris, Margaret and their daughter lived on a tough estate. Some neighbours spotted their vulnerability.

‘They swore and shouted us. Put rubbish through our letterbox. They would knock our door at night with masks on. They even stole our daughter’s birthday balloons and banners.’

“Faced with Chris and Margaret’s experiences we had a choice. We could have just given them a service, a set of transactions – called the police, called the social landlord, supported them to have their say in meetings and make reports to both. But then at the close of day they’d have gone home, to the estate, alone.

“We chose to help them get some real friends instead. Help is available in communities if we know how to find it.”

Read the rest of Clare’s essay in ‘Insights for a Better Way: improving services and building stronger communities’ to find out how Grapevine helped. Plus many other interesting reads from dozens more contributors: www.betterway.network/insights-for-a-better-way

A Better Way is hosted by Civil Exchange, and is co-ordinated by Steve Wyler and Caroline Slocock.

Comment: Grapevine CEO on Social Change Project Report

Social Change Report by Melissa Smith

3 July 2018.

For the past 18 months, the Sheila Mckechnie Foundation (SMK) has been asking: what can we learn about how social change is happening today that can strengthen civil society’s future efforts? The answer was launched last week and I was delighted both to join SMK’s discussion panel and to see Grapevine featured in the report.

Click here to read our article on the report and follow this link to read the Social Change Project report itself, plus a quick summary of its key findings.

Here are a couple of thoughts from me as the leader of a place based charity on what hit home as I read this important report:

Social Change Report by Melissa Smith
Artwork by @FeelGoodMel

UK civil society is often – even mainly – associated with charity and charity is often – even mainly – associated in the public mind with relief of suffering. We are not in the business of relieving suffering. We’re working with the strengths of people and communities to help them bring about change that will improve their lives and futures.

We reject the label of service provider too – that label is given to us by commissioners – it’s their typology. I remember at one particularly low point being introduced as a ‘delivery agent’! Pizza anyone? Language of this kind should not be allowed to shape how we see ourselves. We are a charity that aids people and communities find a voice, to organise, to advocate for shared interests, to hold to account and to bring about change. I think many charities would say the same.

It’s not a new point but it bears repeating by the report – many civil society organisations like ours when we contract with government are working to commercial models and cultures that don’t allow us to work in the ways we need to and which distort our value. That’s well known and talked about but it isn’t changing – yet except among some of the major grant makers and Trusts. Grist to SMK’s mill if they can help us bring that shift to the public sector too.

The report says that civil society is putting too much on influencing formal power. I agree. We don’t spend time in the corridors of Westminster but we do spent time in the corridors of local authorities – and sometimes tread a fine line between co-production and co-option which can leave us passive and powerless. Increasingly, we’ve decided to step away and create more human and personal ways of coming together with a local authority in spaces that weren’t theirs, with agendas they hadn’t set and a much more varied group of people who were there because they wanted to be. See our Walk and Talk clip.

Finally what excited me most was SMK’s inclusive ecosystem of change makers, from activists to movements, from individual campaigners to charities large and small. But as they note in spite of our common cause there’s a striking lack of identity across all social change makers and few opportunities to build one.

My hope for what’s next for SMK is that they can help us build that shared identity.