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