Rotherham Community Options Project Networking and making connections
The project aims to develop connections between adults with a learning disability and their local community. The first part of the project was the Taster Programme that gave people who attend a Rotherham Council day centre, the opportunity to try or ‘taste’ great activities offered by local community enterprises or groups. Key to success was that people were supported to ‘navigate’ their way through the programme by someone who works at the day centre and knew them well.
The second part of the project is to support the development of community enterprises and groups – helping them to develop new activities and opportunities for people with a learning disability.
On the 1st of May Community Catalysts held a ‘Meet Up’ event at the Speak Up – Self Advocacy offices. The event aimed to be an informal and relaxed opportunity for carers and professionals to meet some of the great community enterprises and groups running in Rotherham that are accessible to and inclusive of people with a learning disability.
Around 60 people attended including carers, social workers, health staff, people from various local projects and 9 community enterprises, linked to the Community Options Project; many of which had hosted taster experiences.
We started by introducing the project and talking about the taster programme. We shared stories of people who tried community activities for the first time and told people at the event what people had gained from these experiences.
Then we got people involved in some speed networking which helped to forge new connections and create productive discussions. Helen, from Community Catalysts, facilitated the session, supporting people who run community enterprises and groups to move from table to table, informing carers and professionals about the activities they offer and the positive outcomes people gain from getting involved.
The people from the enterprises and groups really helped the event to flow well. Also key to the success of the event were two of the navigators, who work in Council day centres and played a strong role in the taster programme. The navigators told delegates about their experience of the community activities. Finally Speak Up did a fantastic job of creating a welcoming venue which really contributed to the success of the occasion.
Attendees completed an evaluation form and many also provided verbal or written comments and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Carers and professionals said how useful it was to find out about the community enterprises and groups. They were surprised by the variety of activities available and were really impressed with the passion of the people who run them. Equally, the enterprises and groups found it very informative and said it provided them with a great opportunity to talk what they do to people they might not otherwise meet.
Some concerns and questions were raised including:
• The lack of opportunities for people with more complex needs
• Geographical areas that have a limited number of community activities and options
• Issues around how people can access the activities on offer
We were able to reassure people that highlighting these challenges was essential if they are to be addresses. We promised to take account of them as the project develops and feed them back to Rotherham Council.
The event was really positive and prove a great opportunity to connect people to the options available in the community – one of the primary aims of our project.
Community Catalyst (Rotherham)