If there is one thing that we can be certain of is that nothing is never certain!
Yesterday, we heard that the country will be going to the polls yet again, soon we will have a new Mayor of the West Midlands, the national minimum wage went up on 1st April, and new drivers will be tested on how well they use a SATNAV!
One of the main reasons that SoLO is still in existence is that we have been prepared to change and adapt to the environment that we live in. Only today, I was reviewing the annual reports that we have on file since 2004 and was amazed by the evidence of how different some aspects of our organisation is and the developments that have occurred within a short space of time (13 years) There is, however, some interesting similarities.
So what has changed since then?
- In 2004, we were called Solihull Leisure Opportunities – we are now SoLO Life Opportunities.
- In 2004, we worked with 78 children over the summer – this year we worked with over 450. We also worked with 230 adults during 2004- this year we worked with over 550.
- In 2004, we delivered 2948 leisure experiences to our members, over the past year we will have exceeded 24,000 leisure experiences.
- In 2004, we received a grant from the local authority for adults services – from June 2017 we will no longer receive any money from the local authority to support adults.
- In 2004, our chair person was a parent of a young person with a learning disability. In 2017 this is still the case, but a different parent.
In 2004, we articulated the aims for the future.
- Consolidate our funding position to ensure a firm, sustainable foundation for the further development of our work.
- Develop the arts projects into new award schemes enabling the young people to work towards a Young Arts Leaders Award Accreditation
- Develop a new project for children with severe, profound and multiple learning disabilities to meet together after school with their friends.
- Develop a ‘Get Active’ Project, in partnership with the Youth Service in the North of the Borough, following an analysis of need carried out by the Connexions Personal Adviser which will enable members with moderate learning disabilities to be involved in sporting activities.
- Develop our Summer Play schemes into an activities scheme that meets the needs of parents for respite opportunities and maximises the opportunities for our members. The scheme will be worked in partnership with other respite providers to ensure that the parents are able to maximise their respite opportunities and the children enjoy more choice than was previously available.
- Gain accreditation under the Investors in People Award.
In 2017, we still have some similar aims:
- We have to consolidate our funding and with the development of personal budgets impacting on our grant funding this is more important than ever.
- Our performing arts programmes are as strong as ever.
- We have managed to keep the afterschool provision for children with profound needs and developed a Saturday Scheme with funding from children in need.
- We are developing new programmes for adults around supported living.
- We are working with the Enable team (emerged from youth service – early help) and are planning to support an existing youth club in the North of the borough.
- Our playschemes and holiday activities are constantly being refreshed and we are learning from feedback from parents (with a 97% satisfaction rating) what we need to do to improve.
- We will have to get reaccredited for the Investors in People Award (for the fourth time!)
Also, as in 2004, we have some difficult decisions to make. We are having to move some of our adult provision onto schemes that are individually purchased through personal budgets and this may impact on what we can deliver. We are going to have to invest in fundraising as there will be in increased need for more effort in this area as more and more adults do not meet the criteria for statutory adult social care. Also, as in 2004, we are going to make some major changes to the way we are configuring our core staff team and this will begin shortly.
So, whilst change is in the air – some things don’t change.
One thing that has never changed is the vision to support people with a learning disability, in partnership with others (parents, carers, supporters) to give them the best chance they can have and reach their full potential.
Looking back, I can honestly say that I think our founder would be proud!