Vicci and Inclusion Gloucestershire

At age 9 Vicci was diagnosed with a progressive physical disability. She studied hard and went to Bath University to study a degree in Business. As her studies progressed, she reflected whether she wanted to work for big business or do something with her knowledge and skills that would make a real difference in the community.

In her third year she did a placement in a charity which supports inclusive activities for disabled children. She developed an understanding of the gaps in support experienced by people with physical disabilities. She became determined to do something to try and address this issue. With budgets getting smaller and levels of need increasing Vicci could see that the voluntary sector needed to do more.

Vicci and Inclusion Gloucestershire

After completing her degree Vicci did 9 months of research and was then given some funding by the local council to set up a user led organisation for people with physical disabilities. In 2011 in partnership with other local, talented people, she set up Physical Inclusion Network for Gloucestershire (PING). PING offered information and advice to disabled people and quality checking services to care service providers.

In 2015 austerity resulted in a merger of PING and Gloucestershire Voices to form Inclusion Gloucestershire. Inclusion Gloucestershire offers support to people of all ages and all disabilities and Vicci is its CEO. Inclusion Gloucestershire offers three streams of activity which include engagement, quality checking and development and training. Engagement includes hubs that run across the county that allow disabled people to drop in, spend time and engage in activities. Inclusion Gloucestershire also offers support to individuals looking to gain employment and a peer mentoring scheme helping disabled young people to aspire and plan for the future.

Quality checking activity links to 3 contracts to quality check 180 care service settings annually. Quality assessments are done by experts with lived experience and action plans for improvement are created as a result. For the training and development strand of work information and ideas are shared in accessible ways through a drama group which meets weekly. This group builds the skills of those attending. In addition to this the organisation is commissioned to create films for training and education. Actors from the drama group participate in making these films. 12 videos have been professionally made for the N.H.S.

What helped?

Vicci and her organisation have been helped by supportive commissioners who were flexible and allowed passion and a good idea to be turned into something practical. This support along with some financial start-up funding got the ball rolling.

Support from contacts in other areas, sharing learning and good practice enabled Vicci to look at different ways of creating an organisation and ways of working.

Challenges

Austerity has resulted in a lack of funding at a time of increased demand. Competition for funding within the sector means that relationships can be strained. Local authority priorities change each year, new strategies are put in place. This means that the charity has to adapt their offer to meet the new objectives.

As an organisation Inclusion Gloucestershire and Vicci experience discriminatory attitudes. There is an assumption that people with disabilities can’t be leaders. Vicci feels that individuals have to work twice as hard to show that they have substance and skill.

It is great as a CEO of a user led organisation, with a disability myself, to have the ability to directly challenge those attitudes by my leadership role within my organisation

The three ‘disability communities’ of those with physical disabilities, learning difficulties and mental health challenges all face different prejudices. The early perception was that these prejudices may be reinforced by them being associated together within one charity.

Achievements and impact

Having a growing organisation in difficult financial times is a real achievement as is successfully bringing two organisations together to create one team. Vicci is proud that 60% of her staff team have lived experience of disability. She is also proud that the organisation has grown but still held on to its values. The organisation has successfully created opportunities for disabled people locally – both staff and members. Vicci has also gained personal development opportunities.

This has offered me professional development opportunities, which have included setting up a charity and governance, things which you just can’t learn in a degree. It has also offered me personal opportunities to develop. My resilience has increased with my experience.

The services and reach of the organisation expands every year to include more and more people.

The future

Vicci and her team have developed a three-year plan which includes carrying on their successful work, growing by 20% and developing their offer to young people. They also plan to develop more income streams through films and training and a leadership programme to up skill individuals with disabilities to become leaders. This will enable the charity to do more non-commissioned work and be more in control of its finances.