Clenton and Community Navigator Services CIC

Clenton Farquharson MBE lives in the West Midlands. He made a connection with other disabled people, all of whom used health and care services and had a personal budget to fund the care or support they needed. Clenton and his peers felt frustrated by the health and care system and how it put processes and assumptions about what people need ahead of the experience and aspirations of the person themselves.

No one was really asking us what would help. What would be a great day? What would be a great life? I was fed up of people asking me about care. The majority of people want more than care and it felt as if local and national Government weren’t seeing that. You could say they were dampening our life choices by just seeing us as a set of needs.

Clenton and Community Navigator Services CIC

Clenton and 2 friends decided to act, to use their negative experience in a positive way and try and make things better for themselves and others. They had the idea of establishing their own company to tackle the issues they had experienced.

We thought about it for a long time. Somehow it was as if we were constantly seeking permission from those in power. Then we realised if we don’t do it nobody is going to do it

Together they founded Community Navigator Services, a Community InterestCompany (CIC) based in the West Midlands. They secured a small start-up grant from Awards for All and advice from a local organisation that helps social enterprises.

Community Navigator Services CIC (CNS) is a user-led organisation with two key aims: to help people help themselves, and to support organisations change to become more accessible and approachable. We are passionate about social justice, and experienced in advocacy, training, coaching, mentoring, and communication

Clenton also uses his experience and expertise to influence and effect change on the national stage. He is the Chair of the Think Local, Act Personal (TLAP) programme board; a member of the Coalition for Collaborative Care Coproduction Group, a Trustee of In Control and Race Equality Foundation and acts as a Skills for Care Ambassador. In 2014, Clenton was awarded the MBE
for services to people with disabilities.

What helped?

Clenton has a strong personal drive and a view that anything is possible. He has also developed strong peer networks and intentionally formed relationships with people in power in order to turn their scepticism into relationships and trust. The start up funding grant from Awards for All played a strong part in the birth of the organisation as did advice and support from a local and national business advice services.

In business this is what has helped us: being less predictable, purpose, networks, empowering, experimentation and transparency

Challenges

Clenton and his colleagues faced a number of challenges at the start of their journey. They had no start-up funding or certainty of trading income and had to find the resources to ‘just do it’. They also faced bias from people in power about disabled people as business directors.

Just because we are disabled it doesn’t mean we can’t run a successful business. We were constantly trying to break new ground as to how people saw us individually and collectively as a business. That was very hard as you would go into meetings and see people’s body language as they thought ‘this don’t compute’

Achievements and impact

Clenton and his colleague have created the ‘pursuit of confidence’ a tool that links to Direct Payments and gives people and professionals the confidence to have creative conversations. They have also developed a peer support group called Better Lives Alliance with and for people who employ their own Personal Assistant (PA) and their PAs. The Alliance has developed an education programme which is framed around independent living and citizenship.

Locally Clenton and his colleagues have enabled people to change their lives. They have also played a part in a positive culture change within local authorities with professionals feeling more professionally safe to be creative and person-centred. For Clenton setting up Community Navigator Service with his colleagues has also given him a real sense of solidarity and modelling this to other people in a similar position also has impact on their lives.

It gives me a feeling that I am not alone. It has given us all hope and the more people can collect around hope the better

The future

In the future Clenton would like to help more people in different areas. He and his colleagues at Community Navigator Service are looking at different ways to do this.