Whilst opportunity is a problem for people with some disabilities accessing the community, this can sometimes be reinforced by the stretched resources of local providers says Jim Withers, Director of Respite Now and co-founder of the Peace of Mind Project.
“What we found are that there are many different service providers, but the pressure that they face with funding meant they can be limited with helping people reach all aspects of the community. Relatively simple activities such as playing football or going to a music gig is difficult for people with autism or a learning disability if the support isn’t available.
Many of these people are still reporting they are socially isolated and excluded; they perhaps don’t know what’s going on in their local communities and are unable to share and participate in community life”
In order to help people access the community, Jim identified that to be able to pool the resources from different support providers can broaden reach – not exactly a new concept, but tricky to actually achieve.
The Peace of Mind Project will use web technology to link people together to create a location database of people needing support. This includes an online referral form, and people can quickly access what activities and hubs are in their area and network with other people who want to participate and help.
“There will be a fully interactive map which will also allow personal assistants/carers and individuals to find those opportunities. The project will then match people together and start getting people participating in brand new activities.”
What we’re doing isn’t a new concept – but what is unique is that we are putting into action the ideas which have been thrown around for years which nobody has actually done anything about them.
Jim Withers, Peace of Mind
Whilst this in theory seems efficient, Jim needed to meet different stakeholders to understand the landscape – and introduce them to an entirely new audience.
“We’ve invited community leaders, community groups, local service providers and interest groups to come along and meet people from their communities who are furthest removed and excluded due to disability; long-term impairment or health condition. By meeting people face to face – we are starting to cultivate the community. The Peace of Mind project is meant to be sustainable, we want communities to thrive on their own, and people with disabilities should be a part of that community.”
At the heart, the Peace of Mind project is about being resourceful; refusing to accept that limited funding streams prevent marginalised people from having healthy social lives, and maximising the time and expertise that is available.
“The support that we’ve had has been incredible, and it’s obvious that there’s a real need. What we’re doing isn’t a new concept – but what is unique is that we are putting into action the ideas which have been thrown around for years which nobody has actually done anything about them. Everyone should have the same opportunities to participate in their community and we believe this model will help nurture that, and want to take it all over the country”.
Peace of Mind is a collaborative project between Respite Now C.I.C. and SPAEN. The Peace of Mind are hosting an open day at the Ormindale Pavilion on the Isle of Arran on Wednesday 25th May and are planning further engagement days throughout Ayrshire in the coming months. You can find out more about the project by visiting www.peaceofmind.scot or the Peace of Mind Twitter and Facebook pages
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