Q&A with our National Sport Manager

How did the Sport England funding come about?

Our sport & physical activity programme started in 2014 and has been growing ever since. We have worked with Sport England over the last five years supporting more people with complex needs to be active. This recent funding has come about following our work to date and our ambition to reach more people with complex disabilities who currently aren’t able to access opportunities due to a number of limitations with provision, society, and perception to name a few.

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Sense Awards – 1 month on

Group photo of the Sense Awards winners stood outdoors holding their awards.
Group photo of the Sense Awards winners.

The Sense Awards are a highlight of the year for many of us, myself included, and this year’s event was no exception. Our annual awards, now in their 16th year, are about recognising and valuing the people around us and the difference they make, whether they are a staff member, volunteer, an individual we support or their family carer or sibling. It’s important that we take time out as an organisation to recognise everyone’s contribution and celebrate their successes.

This year’s awards were very special again and below are just some of my personal highlights.

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The State of Care

Two people holding hands and doing hand on hand signing.

On his first day in office Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised “we will fix the social care crisis once and for all”. Nearly three months later we’re still waiting for a solution. This week the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, which set out the Government’s plans for new laws and policies, only made a vague promise that “Government will bring forward proposals to reform adult social care”. Meanwhile more disabled people and their families are reaching crisis point without the right support.

In the State of Care report published this week, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), who are responsible for regulating health and care services, concluded that many people are struggling to access the care that they need. The State of Care report analyses CQC inspection data, as well as service user experiences and focus groups to provide an annual picture of health and care services. Although the quality of many services remains stable, there are considerable challenges around people navigating the system.

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Café 55: The number one place for coffee, cake and community!

Cafe 55 street sign.
Cafe 55 street sign.

Right by Exeter Central Station, supported by a Roman Wall, sits a 120-year-old chapel. While this sounds like something out of The Da Vinci Code, the mystery is solved as soon as you walk through the front door. Cafe 55 feels more like someone’s living room than your standard café. There are books on the wall and the hypnotising smell of fresh chocolate brownies. It took a generous Sense supporter to leave a gift in their will before the café could start and, it has taken the centre manager, Jane, nearly 10 years to get it to where it is today.

Officially open in 2010, Café 55 started as a trial project funded by a supporter’s gift in their Will. Jane was hired to run the project and initially it was open one day a week. As it grew more popular, they expanded to three times a week. The idea behind Café 55 was to create a safe space for anyone (connected to Sense or not) to come, relax and eat. It was to provide work experience and life skills to people supported by Sense.

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Sense CEO speaks to MPs about SEND

CEO, Richard Kramer stood with Philippa Stobbs.

As CEO of Sense, a crucial part of my role is talking to decision-makers about the issues that affect disabled people’s lives, with evidence that is rooted in the views and experiences of families and individuals that we support.

On 30th September I was honoured to give evidence to MPs at the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament, as part of their inquiry into Support for Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). I was invited as CEO of Sense and in my role as Vice-Chair of the Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP), a coalition we’re part of that campaigns for improved health and social care for disabled children and their families. This was a unique opportunity to share some of the challenges experienced by children with SEND when trying to access the right support as well as some of our suggestions for improving outcomes.

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Football for everyone

A woman giving a ball to a young man who is holding his hands out.

Time for a game of footie!

For some time now, as part of our Sporting Sense project, we have been developing all sorts of sport and physical activities for people with complex disabilities – everything from swimming and cycling to yoga and dance. These are great because individuals can do these at their own pace, in their own way, and experience how their body feels in a sensory way.

We’ve also built up good partnerships with local sports clubs and providers to deliver these activities and had a lot of positive interest.

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Sign Language is International

Learn 5 simple signs

Hello everyone. My name is Anna and I have been profoundly deaf since birth. I have been working at Sense for 12 years now and absolutely love it. Before Sense, I had a number of other roles, but Sense has been the most deaf aware organisation I have worked for. It could just be the changing of the times but I know that Sense takes its communication very seriously.

While I have a great manager and a great team, there is one thing I would change. I wish everyone would learn just a bit of sign language. Now this isn’t just the office but when I am out in public too. The funny thing is most people don’t realise that they use sign language every day. When they are waving hello or giving someone the ‘thumbs up’.

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A gift for two brothers!

George and his brother, Jon.

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’.

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George’s Sense Holiday

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.

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What do we campaign on and why?

Two people doing hand-on-hand sign language

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. 

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