One of the best things about working at Outside the Box is all the great people we get to meet. Last week was no exception as I took the trip up to Inverurie to meet with the lovely team at Grampian Opportunities.

Grampian Opportunities, or GO, is staffed by thirteen people who all have disabilities or mental health problems. During my visit the team kindly told me everything that GO has been up to and the impact that Outside the Box’s involvement has had on the organisation.

Grampian Opportunities first connected with Outside the Box four years ago when we got them involved in Self-Directed Support work, graphics training and easy read training. It was great to hear how all of this learning is still used at GO and has been embedded into their approach.

From setting up popular strength and balance classes to running an employment project it is clear that the team enjoy staying busy. The thing that really struck me was how passionate the team are about what they do, the people they work with and how they can best support each other. As we sat round the kitchen table chatting, I was told about how many former volunteers still pop in for a cup of tea and a catch up.

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The success of Grampian Opportunities clearly lies in creating an atmosphere where people feel happy, safe and secure so they are then able to push themselves to try out something new. GO is supported by a group of volunteers who benefit from work experience, 1 to 1 support and office and social skills. These skills have meant that volunteers feel ready and able for work. Marie shared with me how she started at Grampian Opportunities as a volunteer four hours a week five years ago. After previously being told she would never work again, she was pleased to be able to stop receiving benefits last year and (from today) will be working thirty five hours a week with Grampian Opportunities. Amongst her achievements at GO, Marie has developed a training programme called Strike Out that aims to reduce jargon to make conversations around support less scary. Marie has been able to share her skills alongside the insight that working as a volunteer has given her.

 

Dawn is the only full time co-ordinator at GO and, similarly to Marie, has the freedom to try out new approaches, such as considering all the ways SDS can be used, and having personal development time as a part of her working week. She was also able to ask her twin sister, who has Aspergers Syndrome, to write a funding bid for GO to work on an Autism project.

Stories like this show just how important it is to have people who receive support right in the centre of decision-making and how this has afforded Grampian Opportunities such success in all they do.

dmarie