Molly and Sam turn 25… just like Grapevine!

Molly and Sam from Grapevine

Tuesday 20 August 2019.

At Grapevine, we want people and communities to use their untapped power to create better futures. Employing a talented and diverse team of people who care about others is fundamental to helping us achieve this ambition.

Molly and Sam from Grapevine
Molly (left) and Sam from Grapevine

Our latest story to mark 25 years of Grapevine is about team members Molly and Sam – who just happen to have celebrated their 25th birthdays this summer too!

To mark the serendipitous occasion, here’s a little bit about what makes working for Grapevine special for these two ladies.

Molly has worked here since 2017 and is currently spread across the Teenvine Plus, Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) and Warwickshire Empowerment Service projects. She is also just starting on our newest project on Compassionate Communities in Atherstone and Mancetter. She has a Level 3 BTEC in Health and Social Care and Foundation Year in Health and Social Care.

Sam came to Grapevine as a student Occupational Therapist on placement in 2016 and never left! She is currently on the H-Team and Warwickshire Empowerment Service projects. She has a first class degree in Occupational Therapy.

What attracted you to apply for a job at Grapevine?

Molly: When I was 17 I was a buddy on a young people’s project called Get In and I loved it. I actually got involved because I was looking for voluntary work but it became so much more and I made some great friends and had a lot of fun.

When I saw the Teenvine Plus role advertised I was working in social care for the local authority and loved the idea of being able to work with people in creative ways. I was particularly excited about the ‘youth democracy and citizenship group’ which has now grown into CYA.

What do you like most about your job?

Sam: Giving people, some of whom are from seldom heard groups, the skills and confidence to speak up and have a voice. Also that we work on a preventative basis rather than just when crisis hits. I think this is one of the reasons we are so unique.

Molly: Our jobs are so varied. Seeing people achieve things that either they thought they wouldn’t be able to do or were told by society they couldn’t. I can’t help but miss people when they move on to great things but I know it’s because they feel confident to do it without our support and that’s great.

Is there a time you recall feeling like you’d made a real impact?

Sam: I worked on Help and Connect with a young man who was socially isolated and lacked confidence. I worked with him on what was important to him, what he wanted to achieve and why he was not engaging in these things. Due to his disability, his confidence was low and his Mum was very protective of him. Over time, we worked on activities that were meaningful to him with graded support and his self-esteem grew – so much so that he was well on his way to achieving his dream to become a rapper.

What are your hopes for the future for the people we work with?

Molly: I hope the work we do highlights to others to never make assumptions or underestimate someone. My hope for the people we work with is that they have the life they want and are in control of it. A life filled with opportunities and fun like anyone’s else’s and that includes being able to make mistakes – life is all about learning! As well as a good group of friends who are able pick them up when things aren’t so good.

Tell us a fun fact about you

Molly: I’m a terrible singer but I LOVE karaoke! Proud Mary by Tina Turner is my song of choice!

Sam: As a toddler, I hung onto a giraffe’s neck after it poked its head through our car sunroof on safari. My Mum had to pull me back in by my legs!

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.

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

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.