Aiming Higher and making sure disabled children’s voice is heard

This week I attended and opened the annual Aiming Higher Conference in Wadebridge. It was great to see so many parents, carers and professionals making the time to attend. Over the years this conference has provided parents and professionals with an opportunity to come together and discuss how we will improve services for disabled children, young people and their families.

Sadly, over the last few years, our discussions have been over-shadowed by the scale of government cuts to public services. To put it in perspective, this is a cut of £45m since 2011 or one-third of the budget cut to the Children’s Services budget at Cornwall Council. This is why it is all the more important to find solutions together.

Genuine partnership working can be difficult to achieve because it requires mutual respect and trust as well as a solution-focused approach to the challenges and problems we are facing. I believe that we are fortunate in Cornwall that there has been a strong tradition of co-production to innovate service design and delivery. Comments from parents at last year’s conference said that they wanted to work in partnership, not just at the margin but to be fully engaged in some of the more difficult areas of service design. The conference is also a time for reflecting and celebrating what has been jointly achieved through partnership working between parents and professionals.

There are some examples of what has worked well and we need to listen to what does not work well. We also need to welcome the national recognition for Cornwall on how improvements can be made through co-production – even in the most challenging context of cuts to local government children’s services.

It is very important to look to the future, and to spend time asking ourselves; what services will be needed for disabled children, young people and their families in Cornwall over the next 5 or 10 years?

I put several questions to those in attendance. These were:

  • Do we have a shared understanding of the need?
  • Do we have an agreed set of outcomes we want to achieve for disabled children in Cornwall?
  • Do we agree what works and what does not work, and;
  • How are we going to balance an increase in demand, with further cuts in funding and an increase in individual expectations?

One thing for sure is we are going to have to do things differently. We will have to explore together those areas that will need to change. And most importantly, we will have to discuss how we can continue to work together to make the best use of limited resources.

This is why the experience, views and ideas from parents and Carters will help shape services for Disabled Children in Cornwall. We must together, truly aim higher for disabled children in Cornwall.

Part of the conference were heard from various keynote speakers. It was good to hear from Amanda Harvey from the Council of Disabled Children giving the national context.

We also heard from an inspirational young speaker called Molly Watt. Molly is registered visually impaired and deaf. She explained the difficulties in her educational journey and how she overcame them. From these experiences she set up her own company, The Molly Watt Trust to help raise awareness of Ushers Syndrome. Molly advises how government and companies make their services more accessible. Please have a look at her website HERE. She had a standing ovation from the audience on completion of her talk.

It is also not often you go to a conference and are handed a plastic water-proof cape. This meant I was going to get wet. However, I was more than willing to get wet and was honoured to be part of the Get Out There Act play (GOT Act). This play highlighted the journey of the group from where it started to where it is now. I have blogged about this fantastic group before. You can see their great work HERE. It was a great performance with a important message, made the audience laugh.





Get out There group does X-Factor

On Saturday, I was invited to Get out There’s X-Factor event that took place at Chacewater Village Hall. I can tell you this event was far more fun than the other X-Factor on ITV. I was even made a judge, luckily it was not Simon Cowell.

Get Out There (GOT) is a Sense service based in Cornwall for young people with little or no sight. Many of the young people in the group have additional needs such as epilepsy, diabetes, autism, hearing impairments, communication difficulties and limited mobility.

The ethos of the group is that these young people have as much right to have fun and adventure as other teenagers.

During the evening we saw around 15 acts from comedy to singing. Some of the acts had performed before at other GOT X-Factor events, but others overcame ‘stage-fright’ and performed in front of over 50 people who attended the event.

With any competition, there was a winner, but all the act were awarded a medal for taking part. As I said previously, it was a great evening and far, far better than the other X-Factor on ITV.

Get Out There (GOT) Drama Group GOT-2-ACT head to Australia

Cornish based drama group of young deafblind people, GOT-2-ACT are getting ready to travel to Perth at the end of October as part of an exchange programme between national deafblind charity Sense and Senses Australia, a charity for people with disabilities.

During the trip the group will have morning tea with Her Excellency the Governor of Western Australia as well as performing two short plays at the Rendezvous Hotel in Scarborough, Perth on the evening of Wednesday, 28 October. They will also perform an “interpreted” play performance at the Perth Mossman School for the Deaf.

The GOT-2-ACT drama group, which formed just over a year ago, is part of the wider GOT Group which was set up to meet the needs of children and young people in Cornwall with sight and hearing loss. Funded by Cornwall Council, the 24 member GOT group has gone from strength to strength and is now being piloted by two other local authorities.

Members f the GOT-2-ACT

Members of the GOT-2-ACT

Minack drama 2015

Minack drama 2015

The group received outstanding critical acclaim for their performance of ‘American Idol’, the life and times of deafblind activist Helen Keller in the local area. From this, the group were invited to perform at the Deafblind International European conference in Belfast and the world Deafblind International conference opening ceremony in Romania earlier this year.

During the trip to Australia, the group will be having tea with the Governor, and the group will also have the opportunity to meet members of the Senses Australia service, and explore the city of Perth.

Following the trip to Perth a return visit is being planned for next year when children and young people with sight and hearing loss from Australia will be invited to stay with families in Cornwall.

I am a huge supporter of GOT and it is fantastic that in just one year, the GOT-2-ACT group has been formed and has delivered outstanding performances, both in Cornwall and in countries across Europe. Now, as a result of their success, they have been invited to perform in Australia

This is a wonderful chance for members of this very special group to share their experiences and show what can be achieved with the right support. All those involved in the GOT group should be very, very proud of all the work they do.

Funding for this trip has come from parents; Sense Cornwall branch; “The Lounge”, Truro; fund-raising and donations.