Connect in The North, a charity based on Balm Road in Hunslet is celebrating 20 years of creating change in Leeds this November. For the last 20 years the organisation has been working to enable people with learning difficulties to have the same opportunities and power in their lives as everyone else.
Over the years Connect in the North has run different projects in which people with learning difficulties have taken a lead, for example:
- Making Your Days Better – a project that involved people with learning difficulties visiting alternatives to day services around the country. They wrote about what they’d learnt in a resource which was published by Pavilion and was a best seller.
- Connect Works – a project where people with learning difficulties first found out what training people with learning difficulties wanted personal assistants to have. They then developed and delivered training for personal assistants.
- Developing the Building Our Power pack. Building Our Power is training to support the involvement of people with learning difficulties on governing bodies.
Company director Cathy Wintersgill said:
“We have seen a lot of changes over those 20 years – Meanwood Park Hospital finally closed down, more people getting the chance to choose who they live with, where they live and who supports them by using personal budgets and people with learning difficulties are now actively involved in planning services in Leeds.”
Connect in the North has played a part in these changes. With funding from the Leeds Joint Commissioning Service they run free training for people who work in Leeds. This supports the ongoing development and improvement of services for people with learning difficulties in the city.
Connect in the North’s directors, who all have learning difficulties, are involved in speaking out nationally through the Learning Disability Alliance. This is an alliance of individuals and organisations working closely with the National Forum (of people with learning difficulties) and the National Valuing Families Forum to promote the rights of people with learning difficulties.
“Connect in the North is a fantastic organization. We are a user led organization of people with learning difficulties, which is great because it gives people with learning difficulties control. It is a great organization to be part of. Over the years we have done many different things. ” said Vicky Hiles chair of Connect in the North and Board member since 2010.
Connect in the North also run ‘Through the Maze’ an information and signposting service for people with learning disabilities, careers and professionals. This information service helps people find activities, services and support they need to lead full lives and be part of their communities.