Always Bee You
Jo from Always Bee You joined the Community Enterprise Development Programme in August 2019 to set up on her own and provide more engaging, personal and flexible social activities, community experiences and work-training options for adults with learning disabilities.
Always Bee You now has 57 people attending their social evenings, art sessions, yoga, days out and work experience placements on a weekly basis (20 of whom receive a Direct Payment), which involves Jo and her small team of 6 volunteers providing a much-needed 47 hours a week worth of face-to-face contact time post-covid. They also support 100 parents / unpaid carers with information, advice, emotional support and respite.
“I started Always Bee You because I wanted to provide good quality social and work opportunities for adults with learning disabilities, as I felt there was a gap in the market for more exciting social experiences at affordable prices. Working at a local charity for twenty years with adults with learning disabilities told me they were lonely in the evenings, they didn’t feel safe if they went out at night, they were watching tv at home alone and wanted a safe place to meet their friends. This was the motivation to start our Always Bee You social club.
I also started a Bee Skilled work training programme to provide much needed work experience for adults with learning disabilities, as I’m a qualified NVQ Assessor and have experienced the joy of many of my students gaining voluntary or paid work.
The most rewarding aspect of Always Bee You is to see how people who use our services gain confidence, life skills and independence- and to know what we do makes a difference.”
Jo Radcliffe, Director, Always Bee You
Exciting day trips we would all like to do
Always Bee You has been offering day trips post-covid which are proving very popular as they have been fundamental in helping people to get out again and connect socially. Day trips have included visits to Harry Potter World, Wimpole Hall Estate, Ivinghoe Beacons, Shepreth Wildlife Park, Colchester Zoo, a beach trip to Felixstowe, Mary Poppins theatre production, Leadenhall Market, Old Spitalfields Market, The Gherkin, Leicester Square, Carnaby Street, China Town, Camden Market, London Zoo and Madame Tussauds.
Always Bee You now has 6 regular volunteers who are involved in the social evening events as well as the day trips. Here’s feedback from one of their volunteers and what it means to him to be involved:
“I have had the pleasure of volunteering with Jo for the past 2 years. Always Bee You is a fantastic social enterprise and getting involved is important to me because I love knowing that I can make a difference to the lives of adults with learning disabilities.
I like to organise trips and dinners out to keep each day exciting, creating brilliant opportunities to make more friends. Talking with everyone involved is my biggest priority and that’s what Always Bee You is all about! Making sure that we are all having a great time!”
Paul, Volunteer, Always Bee You
Clearly making a difference
Jo Radcliff, Director at Always Bee You, introduces some of the local people who draw on their support…
“I have known Rachel from when I worked for a large UK-based charity supporting people with disabilities which Rachel ultimately left. She would try work experience in High Street shops and it failed all the time because she would have seizures at work and they wouldn’t want her again. Rachel was really, really sad. She couldn’t get a job and she couldn’t get any funding. She’d applied for PIP three times unsuccessfully. She didn’t know she could be eligible for a direct payment either. She didn’t have any money whatsoever, and it was just a disaster.
When Rachel came to us, she was struggling with her social anxiety and mental health, and was having multiple seizures all the time and was very timid and quiet. We were able to help her apply for PIP again. I wrote her a supporting letter and she got the full amount. I then attended a learning session Community Catalysts had organised with the Direct Payment Manager and found out how someone could get an assessment for a Direct Payment so I was able to support Rachel and her mother through the process. She got a really substantial and life-changing amount of money, so she could access the range of activities we offer which supports wellbeing and friendships.
Rachel comes to me now several days a week and participates in lots of exciting activities that we do and absolutely loves it. The change in her is massive. She’s talking, she wasn’t talking before, she was head down, no confidence. Now she’s saying what she wants, she’s asking for things. She didn’t have any friends before, she’s got 30 friends, she’s got friends coming out of her ears, and she’s confident. Rachel is doing work experience with us now at Fanhams Hall, a local hotel wedding and events venue. She’s possibly going to go for a job there.
The support we’ve been giving to Rachel has made a huge difference to her mum’s life too. Before Rachel was always at home and her mum felt really isolated as she couldn’t do anything because she couldn’t leave Rachel. Rachel’s mum has noticed a massive difference in Rachel saying how happy she is, that she’s eating properly, her health has really, really improved. She’s not having so many seizures. She’s just a totally different person.
So now Rachel brings her friend along. Mark was feeling really low and wanted to come along to some social activities. He started talking to me and we’ve developed a relationship. He’s on his own. He doesn’t have much support. He was working long hours so we were able to support him to look for different employment. Mark’s living conditions were not good so we helped him find a new place to live.
We’re still helping Mark with other stuff. We’ve got Shaw Trust involved and they’ve taken Mark to a job fair. I’ve got in touch with the job centre – they saw us in the Ware Parade and wanted to support us. We’ve got a link with them now and they are helping our people get jobs at the job centre. Mark has got several interviews lined up. Mark was having issues with his health and we’ve been able to support him with advice about diet and exercise and healthy living.
I think it’s good that people talk to us and open up, and we help them as much as we can. The larger providers don’t have these relationships and wouldn’t even know what was going on.”
“Another one of our guys, Tom, is doing 3 days a week work experience in a local shop and one of our volunteers is mentoring Tom and is supporting him to get paid work in the future.
Tom used to be at home 24/7 and felt there was nowhere for him to learn new skills. He is now thriving and is getting work experience to help him improve his chances of getting paid employment in the future.”
No Age Limit
“The local Mental Health Team are now referring people who are struggling with their mental health. They’ve developed their own little support group within the group. The parents are supporting each other too. Engaging with Always Bee You has helped them with their recovery.
Some people have been coming to our social evenings with their grandparents and other family members to engage in activities and create positive memories together.
We’ve actually got quite a few older people now. Our oldest is 82 and she’s on the dance floor too with her sparkly shoes. She’s the most lively of the lot! We’ve got people from the ages of 17 to 82. There are other organisations that have a cut-off at 25 because of funding. We don’t.”
How Community Catalysts have continued to support Jo
Jo has continued to receive support from the Community Enterprise Project. She has had support developing new project ideas and activities as well as a support programme for carers, and has received information and guidance sourcing funding opportunities and evidencing impact. Jo is now applying for larger funding amounts, including from national funders, and is in the process of becoming a charity based on her growth and success. Always Bee You is the Mayor of Ware’s Charity of The Year 2022.
Final words from Jo
“Without the support I’ve had, and continue to have, from Community Catalyst, I might not have had the confidence to do this. It’s always good to have someone in the background that knows you can do it because I wasn’t quite sure at the start.
I’ve got my confidence now I feel like it’s taking me a while. You know it’s been three years. It takes a while to get your confidence. It’s just lovely to see all these people benefiting. And yeah, it’s been a hard slog, but it’s been worth it. Really has been worth it. It’s been great.”
Jo Radcliffe, Director, Always Bee You