Zach takes his catering credentials to the next level with help from Michelin star chef

Zach learning in the kitchen with Adam

31 July 2019.

A young Coventry man has embarked on a catering career in the kitchen of a Michelin star chef, with help from Grapevine’s Connect2Work project.

Adam and Zach at The Cross pub
Adam and Zach (right)

Since starting last November, Zach has surprised everyone with his mature attitude and commitment to such a pressured environment straight out of college. Zach, however, is taking it all in his stride – so much so that he has now gone a step further by moving into his first flat close to work.

What makes these achievements even more special is that Zach, who has autism, has found a new social circle centred around his job and an encouraging boss who works closely with him to make the most of his role.

Zach learning in the kitchen with Adam
Zach is learning on the job and making friends too

Adam Bennett, head chef at The Cross in Kenilworth, said: “Employing Zach has been an entirely positive experience.

“He has become a valued and trusted member of the team, always doing his best and always completing tasks precisely the way he has been taught.”

And while Zach is currently working as a kitchen porter, Adam hopes he’ll steadily add to his skills at a pace Adam is happy for Zach to set.

His growing confidence in the workplace has spurred him on to move out of home – showing just how secure he feels about his job and the friends he is making there.

Adam, Zach and Kitty in the restaurant
Adam, Zach and Kitty in the restaurant

Project worker Kitty Wright said: “Stories like Zach’s are becoming more common but there is still a big disparity between the percentage of the general population aged 16-64 who are in paid employment, and people who have a learning disability or autism – 74 per cent are working compared to just six per cent.”

Kitty and Zach applied for the kitchen porter position but Kitty asked to visit The Cross in advance of a telephone interview to help Zach familiarise himself with the restaurant.

Adam concludes: “I would urge other employers to seriously consider employing staff with a learning disability or autism.

“The commitment we have made to Zach has resulted in an employee who really values his position, which gives us stability in a key role in the kitchen.

“It is also very rewarding for me as an employer to see Zach settle and progress as a young man with The Cross as part of his life.”

25th anniversary logo

We wish Zach every success in the future. We are celebrating his story to help mark 25 years of Grapevine this year and show the impact of our work on people and communities.

Connect2Work is the employment strand of the Help and Connect project in Coventry, aimed at people who have a learning disability or autism but don’t use any formal social services.

It cuts across four strands – staying healthy, staying safe, getting work and building friendships, connections and support networks – and is commissioned by Coventry City Council.

Why Ignite shows that change starts with us

Volunteer drive in Willenhall

10 July 2019.

It’s near to an impossible task – writing a story about a project that operates, and likes to remain, uncredited behind the scenes. A project supporting a myriad of offshoot initiatives, spawned by ideas from informal conversations and brought to life by diverse members of the community.

But here we are. Almost four years on from the start of the Ignite project in Coventry’s Willenhall neighbourhood and just a few months before its end.

Ignite was created through a partnership between Grapevine and Central England Law Centre. On the one hand, Grapevine knew how to think outside the box and connect people. On the other, the Law Centre had the legal expertise to unlock systems and rights, handing power to the powerless.

The project set out on its four-year journey in 2015 with Coventry City Council and WM Housing Group alongside as integral partners in making Willenhall a better, more connected place. A Willenhall where help could be offered early before people plunged into crisis and services had to take over. The fact was that ongoing cuts to budgets meant public services were less and less able to be there.

The journey hasn’t been easy – bringing change to systems and beliefs is never linear and without complications. But Ignite team leader, John Toman is hopeful things won’t revert when he and the team move on.

“Ignite has played a unique role in the changes in Willenhall,” he says. “We have nothing to gain from building relationships and confidence in the community and local services.

“Our neutral position helps people trust that we are there to help. We sometimes ask the more difficult questions but we are always honest about why we need to know. From there, energy comes, connections are made and people start to find their own solutions to problems they are facing. And because they provide the solutions, there’s a greater chance of sustaining them for longer.”

Volunteer drive in Willenhall
A volunteer drive helped gather more support

So far the initiatives ‘ignited’ by local people with the project’s backing (and help from community facilities, Willenhall Library and places of worship) include: a uniform swap shop for parents; a weekly grub club with food donations from a local supermarket available to eat and also take home; a Wednesday walking group led by residents who want to keep fit and help familiarise newcomers with their neighbourhood; a Women of Willenhall women’s support group; and a homework club for youngsters run by a local teenager.

From improving a form to make it easier to claim a benefit, to working with renters and housing providers to iron out any issues complying with their tenancy agreement – and much, much more in between – change has been steady, subtle and anchored in mutual respect.

A volunteer drive in March helped bring a small group of eight together to receive weekly training inputs at Wood Side Family Hub that will help give them the knowledge and skills to run their own groups and activities. They each also bring strengths and talents to the table. It is what Ignite set out to do – people in Willenhall doing things for other people in Willenhall, and the future is looking bright.

25th anniversary logo

More information

We are telling this story of impact as part of our 25th anniversary celebrations.

If you live in Willenhall and want to get involved in your local community, simply drop in at Wood Side Family Hub to find out what’s on.

If you are interested in how Ignite has taken a different approach to getting at the root causes of social problems, not just dealing with the consequences, get in touch with us.

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.

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.

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

CYA on Brighton Pier

19 November 2018.

Last Friday’s Children in Need Appeal Show brought in £50.6m according to BBC News – taking the total amount of money raised since fundraising began 38 years ago in 1980 to over £1 billion.

Here at Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire we are part-funded by Children in Need to run our Teenvine Plus and Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) projects to give young people with disabilities opportunities to forge friendships, build confidence and independence, and unlock their potential to live a full, happy life bolstered by a strong network and great experiences.

Thank you to everyone who makes this possible through their donations to fundraising – we couldn’t do it without you.

Here are a couple of quick glimpses into the fun and innovation that surrounds CYA’s activities… the first to mark their one-year anniversary last month and the second is their recent weekend away to watch a gig in Brighton.

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

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.