Don't quack like a duck, soar like an eagle!
We thought we would take the opportunity this month to ‘self-indulge’ and share with you some of the highs and lows we have experienced over the last 18 months since COVID-19 came into all our lives.
We will start with the lows, shall we? Back in March 2020 we made the decision to close our office in the flagship Centre for Independent Living for what we initially thought would be a short period of time. Little did we know that by the end of that year we would be closing our office for good! It was a real roller coaster of a time, adapting to working from home, the potential negative impact on delivering our current services and the realisation that some were coming to an end, losing day-to-day contact with the people we worked with and alongside and ultimately and unfortunately, making the difficult decision to make someone redundant. It wasn’t a good time.
We tried not to panic and looking back, we don’t think we did, but it was scary. We accepted the changes, maintained our services, but adapting them to the situation we were in, we began using Zoom to keep in contact with people we knew, whilst also making new contacts.
We started to turn the negative situation we found ourselves in, into a positive one. We knew it wouldn’t last forever and we had to be ready. We joined the Hartlepower Sector Connector meetings and met people who were in the same situation as us, we shared experiences and ideas and it led us to new opportunities. We opened a ‘virtual office’, updated our website and welcomed a new Board Member to our team. We secured funding to extend our support of the Hartlepool Advocacy Hub ensuring that throughout the pandemic, people continued to receive timely and professional support, and of course, our blog returned!
As a Disabled People’s User-Led Organisation we have always tried to raise awareness of the barriers people face daily, but it always felt like an uphill struggle. As a result of the pandemic, people shielding, the further isolation it caused and the Lockdowns, it raised the profile of these barriers and when a funding opportunity became available via a Community Pot, ourselves and like-minded organisations got together to form CLIP (Community Led Inclusion Partnership).
Following our successful funding application, CLIP has evolved quickly and is being recognised as the ‘go to’ organisation to raise awareness of and the challenges faced by people in our community. They are currently carrying out surveys to highlight the barriers people face and also to be involved in the ‘Changing Places’ consultation and I recommend you participate by following the links on their Twitter page before the surveys close this week. CLIP have appointed an ‘Inclusion Lead’ to take their work forward. As a DPULO, believe this ‘voice’ may have been lost without a willingness to work together, brought on by the situation we all found ourselves in.
In 2019, along with the Local Authority and other local organisations, we became involved with the concept of Community Led Support, and you could see this model in action during the Lockdowns with people from different agencies, organisations and groups working creatively together across the town. We acknowledge this is where we need to be, in the community, so perhaps on reflection, closing our office may not be such a bad thing after all.
We launched a new service in May called ‘Blue DICE’ (Digitally Inclusive Community Engagement) in a direct partnership with the Community Hub ‘digital champions’ to ensure that people in Hartlepool who are isolated by access to technology can get the support they need. It really is Community Led Support in action.
Our other new project is open to anyone who lives in Hartlepool, no matter your age. We are encouraging people to 'gift' an indoor/outdoor plant to a neighbour, care home resident, family member, friend/school friend, work colleague etc just to cheer them up as a 'random act of kindness', whilst hopefully also making you feel good. All we ask is that you share the moment with us by sending a photograph and a short comment by email, or by sharing it on social media by using @dolphincontrol and/or by using the #PlantAMemory hashtag.
After us all having had some really difficult times since COVID-19 came into our lives, we think it is time to have some fun and spread some happiness, so please join in in any way you can.
This month we are hoping to launch a video about Incontrol-able and our services using British Sign Language, produced by an organisation called ‘Rare Rockets’ – watch this space!
I think the point we’re trying to make is that no matter what the situation you find yourself in, never give up, believe in yourself, and don’t fear change.
Finally, we would like to thank the people and organisations, friends, and partners old and new for sticking by us over the last 18 months.
Joke of the Month: Just found out that the company that produces yardsticks won’t be making them any longer.
My wings are aching, the eagle has landed – see you next month