Sense TouchBase South East stands at the top of a hill, tucked away from the busy high street in Barnet. For over ten years, I have been commuting to this now retired battery factory to support people who are deafblind or have complex disabilities, and although it has existed for a quarter of a century, every day feels new. The centre was initially funded by a gift in a Will from a generous Sense supporter. TouchBase South East has been a gift to so many families, including my own.
My brother George is a year younger than me. I think most people can tell that we are brothers straight away but George is slightly different to me. He has a number of health conditions that have caused learning disabilities, visual, hearing and physical impairments, and epilepsy. With all of this, George is understandably very hesitant when meeting new people and going to new places. He is more than happy sitting on the sofa with our mum watching ‘Only Fools and Horses’.
Recently, I went on one of the best holidays of my life. No it wasn’t the jungles of Thailand or India. Nor was it the sprawling cities of New York or Berlin. It was Bewdley just outside of Kidderminster. Actually, it was just outside of Bewdley, just outside of Kidderminster. While it is not the most well-known or sought after destinations, Frank Chapman Centre hosted two groups of Sense holidaymakers, volunteers and leaders for a week of fun, friendship and adventure!
It was a cold Saturday morning when Emily Forman (Intervenor Service Manager) and I met up to prepare for our long journey from London to Bewdley. We were leading a Sense holiday together and while Emily led one last year, this was my first. Needless to say, the nerves were present. We had great support from the Sense Holidays and Short Breaks team and a good understanding of the volunteers and holidaymakers we had on the holiday. But spending a week away with people you don’t know is nerve-wracking for anyone.
Sense has a proud record of campaigning to make sure that society addresses the needs of the people we support. This can mean many things but has included supporting disabled people and their families to meet with MPs to share their experiences campaigning on social care and influencing the development of legislation (e.g. the Children and Families Act or Care Act) to ensure that it meets the needs of people who we serve.
There are many things we could campaign on – and we always want to hear people’s ideas and
feedback. The recent consultation with membership about Sense’s strategy for
the next three years also gave us a strong steer.
According to research carried out by Sport England, almost half (42%) of disabled people are classed as inactive, which means they do less than thirty minutes of exercise a week. This rises to over half (51%) among people with complex disabilities.
At Sense, we are familiar with the disparities that exist and are working towards ensuring that no one is left out of life. There are so many physical, mental and social benefits to being active but unfortunately there aren’t the same opportunities available to people with more complex disabilities.
That’s why we’re excited to be launching a new three-year project, ‘Sense, Active Together’ building on our foundations of supporting people who are deafblind or have complex disabilities to be active, and aiming to reach another 2,500 people.
Every June, for Deafblind Awareness Week, communities join forces up and down the country to put on a Sense Walk with the idea of bringing everyone together in their local communities. Sense Walks helps us spread the word of the work we do and the support we provide to people in local communities. Filled with bright colours, many balloons, face painting and much more, people came together to spread awareness of Sense.
Do you have any unwanted bric-a-brac taking up space? At Sense, we are taking those items that have been gathering dust and giving them a new lease of life by turning them into unique works of art.
We are very excited to once again, collaborate with RBSA on a mentoring programme connecting professional artists with the people we support. This brilliant new programme of activities is called Making Together, which is supported using funding by Arts Council England.
Making Together involves several different mentoring and art workshops between artists and Sense art-makers with complex disabilities. The aim of the mentoring and making workshops is to help Sense art-makers develop their own artwork for display.
John is not a man with free time, but what little time he has is spent doing what he loves: enabling people to achieve their goals and challenging perceptions of what people think is possible. At 42 years old, he works full time as a Technical Lead (or, in his words, a Professional Geek) at LonRes, runs accessible snowboarding sessions for people with disabilities and is currently training for the Royal Parks Half Marathon. When asked why he continues to run his snowboarding sessions on top of all his other projects, John said he wants ‘everyone to experience what I experienced on my first lesson’.
John has been into technology longer than he has been into
snowboarding as he learned to code as a child. During a break in his IT career,
he decided to travel where he learned how to snowboard and soon the hobby
became a passion. He took an instructors course and was soon teaching in the
UK. There was, however, a problem. While teaching in Milton Keynes, he noticed that
because there were no instructors or resources, not many disabled people were able
to take part in the sport.
The Trail magazine competition offered free entry to the Ridgewalk and 3 guest blogs on its website. As a fledgling writer trying to expand horizons I was tempted. There was the minor issue of 52 miles to cover, but hey I needed a challenge. And the sponsorship target seemed achievable.
wasn’t the most commendable motivation and somewhat selfish. It got me signed
up though – training would need to be well advanced by the time the
winner was announced. Which proved good judgement – I didn’t win but was
committed now. No backing out.
Fast forward two months, the first 30-mile training walk under the belt, sponsorship in need of a boost so time to hit social media. Out of the blue came £100 from a business colleague. Turns out he used to be a Sense trustee; his daughter was profoundly disabled from birth and received a lot of help from the charity. Thoughts went back to when we first met, two days after his daughter died, things still raw. Forget business, we just talked. The Ridgewalk was suddenly taking on meaning. Which felt kind of nice.
🚴 23-year-old Beth Jones was inspired to take part in the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 to raise money for Sense, after seeing first-hand the difference we make to the people we support, including to her brother Callum.
Beth’s brother Callum has epilepsy and severe learning difficulties, and attends our Sense day centre in Streatley, Bedfordshire. We support Callum by removing barriers of communication, which gives him the opportunity to connect and experience the world!
“Despite the challenges that Callum faces, he has always been happy, curious and engaged with all the world has to offer.” – Beth
a recent report the Government was yet again criticised for failing to find
a long term funding solution for the social care system. As we head towards the
summer, and a 6 week break for Parliament, there are a lot of ideas being
discussed. One of the top proposals for solving the social care crisis is Free
Personal Care, but what does it mean, and how would it affect the people Sense