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News - April 2018


Gathering strength, starting to Build a vision and Working together with some amazing people – reflections on the last year


Feeling like I’m finally coming up for breathe after quite a year and thought I would share some of the first year of GatherBuildWork, and some hopes for the year to come.


I’m sharing all of this for lots of reasons, but mostly because I like many others work on their own and for me there’s a real need for us all to reach out and connect with each other; there are links to bits of work, organisations and people below so feel free if you read something interesting to get in touch or find out more, and you are very welcome to drop me a line as well.

Email Nic

My Life

My first new contract with a wonderful friend and long-time work colleague Caroline Tomlinson; an evaluation of the work of My Life as its continues to grow from its roots in a port-a-cabin in to an exciting provider of support, opportunity and all round wonderful community ‘stuff’ for many different people.  I met a great group of people working together, and wished I had been better organised and had been able to join them in their amazing trek up the Atlas Mountains in September 2017.

Visit the My Life website

ENIL - the European Network for Independent Living

….and then GatherBuildWork went to Europe, starting work in July 2017 on an external evaluation of the work of the European network for Independent Living, and so began some great working relationships and friendships across Europe which continue to be a central part and a highlight of my working life.  More about where this work took me and what the connections have grown in to later…. 

The photo is from the Freedom Drive a coming together of people campaigning for independent living for all across the whole European community.

Visit ENIL's web page

Scrapbook Circles

And then, from left field came the opportunity to get involved in something completely new; developing a software package that offered people with more complicated support needs and those supporting them to set up their own private and small social network.  Scrapbook Circles sets out to challenge support providers to prioritise friendships and family and think about how isolating it can be being surrounded by paid people and not being able to catch up with mum, dad, sister, brother.  We are continuing to pilot, revise, refine and spread the word, watch this space for more news Click here to visit the website

The September Sessions – Dubrovnik

Spurred on by the new connections and learning from working with ENIL I headed off to Dubrovnik in Spetember to join a week long course/workshop all about deinstitutionalisation; it was possibly the best investment of time I made in 2017.  I learnt, shared and made some great friends who I continue to work with ……and I had my eyes opened to the on-going challenges all across Europe of closing institutions.  The languages may be different, the history and cultures may be different but the challenges of discrimination, segregation and hate crime are all the same

I AM Challenging Behaviour

Over the past couple years Sam Sly and I have been wanting to do something to challenge the many labels given to the people we work alongside, labels that stigmatise, that perpetrate discrimination and do nothing to help people move forward in their lives.  So, in September ‘I am challenging behaviour’ came to life (with the brilliant and creative intervention of Chris Hatton).  So many people responded it has been overwhelming at times, and ‘the badge’ is now being worn with pride by many people all over the world.

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Uni of Ljubljana, Slovenia

In October I headed out to meet up with some of the people I met in Dubrovnik and share some of the work I’d been involved in over the years with students at the University of Ljubljana.  Blimey these guys work long hours ….the first lecture started at 8am on the Monday and the last finished about 9pm and so the week went on.  It was great sharing and talking with so many young people studying to be future social workers and I also met Elena and Klaudija at YHD the Disabled People’s Organisation in Slovenia and we talked about the challenges they face in getting real change to happen in the way people are supported with personal assistants.

European Coalition for Community Living

In January, working with Ines Bulic and ENIL we re-launched the European Coalition for Community Living with an on-going programme of monthly webinars.  Getting to know people engaged with deinstitutionalisation and independent living across Europe in the previous year and many discussions with Miro Griffiths, Jamie Bolling and Ines highlighted the lack of real practical sharing of ways to make this real for people.  The Coalition is a voluntary run forum for people across Europe to link up and learn from people right round the world, we’ve an ever growing mailing list and a really exciting programme ahead.  Many thanks to so many people for giving their time and sharing what they know about ‘what works’ and ‘what does not work’.

Click here to visit the website and find information about past and future webinars

Life Planning with IOOH Ltd

Towards the end of 2017 and in the early part of 2018 I had the opportunity to work with Sam, Jo, Denise and the ‘I’m Out Of here’ team.  This became some of the most challenging and rewarding work I’d ever done; life planning with people across ages who had been living in secure institutions in southern England.  Working one to one with people who had horrendous life experiences and starting to support them and key people to think about and plan for a future living more independently in local communities will always be a highlight of my working life and I’ll always be grateful for Sam, Jo and Denise for giving me this opportunity.  Email Sam Sly for more information - Click here

The year ahead!

March ended and April started with a conference in Paris, a dash to Edinburgh to hear about new work on Individual Service Funds and a chance to catch up with Zara Todd, a few days back in Slovenia training their new mental health planners and advocates and a meeting with the Ministry for Health.  Two of the most exciting pieces of work for the coming year are working alongside different groups of young people; three groups in Scotland as part of an In Control Scotland and Life Changes project to learn and grow strong young disabled people with care experience advocacy groups and a second in local children’s services down south supporting them in thinking creatively about telling other young people about person centred work and well-being budgets.  And then there is the ‘Art of Deinstitutionalisation’ at the end of May but that’s for another day!!



Looking back over the last year it was certainly a full one; it had its ups and a few downs but if the coming year is anything like as full of learning, meeting good people driven by their hearts and commitment to making a difference and findings ways to do my bit then it will be a good one!!