2022. What a year!

We’ve had an incredible 365 days. From launching new services, to expanding our team, meeting with citizens, carers, and parents; it’s been a busy yet bright year for Midland Mencap.

That’s why we wanted to look at our year in review, month by month. To shine a light on how every month of 2022 we have supported people with a learning disability and their families across the Midlands.

New Services

This year, Midland Mencap launched a variety of new services and opportunities to get involved in the work we do. 2022 saw us launch the Walsall Carers Hub, the Learning Disability Wellbeing Service and new Volunteering roles.

The Walsall Carers Hub was introduced this year as an extension of Forward Carers and our Family Carer’s team. Based in Walsall, the Walsall Carers Hub offers a wide range of support and services to unpaid carers in Walsall. To learn more visit walsallcarershub.org.uk

Mid-way through 2022, we launched the Learning Disability Wellbeing Service, previously known as Supporting People. This new service now supports over 400 people with a Learning Disability across Birmingham. From assisting with healthcare appointments to getting the right benefits, maintaining a home and help with budgeting, this team ensures all citizens can access the right care they need.

This year we re-launched our Volunteering offer. Volunteering with Midland Mencap is a great opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of people with learning disabilities. The volunteering opportunities are varied and often rewarding, ranging from working with our Children and Young People’s team, to being a Trustee and more. We look forward to offering more chances to get involved in the new year. Check out our blog for more information.


To say this year has been a busy one would be an understatement. We’ve hosted so many community events that you’ve all been involved in. This summer was fabulous, with a heat wave to match.

We started our 2022 events calendar with International Women’s Day in March. We celebrated and #eMMpowered women from across the West Midlands and the sector. With presentations, a delicious buffet and concert from a local singer, we saw hundreds of citizens, carers and professionals come together to learn more about the services we offer for women in our local area.

The summer saw two more events take place – the Queen’s Jubilee and Learning Disability Week Get Creative Day.

Our Jubilee Party was a roaring success! We hosted hundreds of people, from across Birmingham and the West Midlands, for a day of fun, celebration and activities. The Weoley Castle Community Centre was decorated in red, white and blue Union Jacks everywhere and the BBQ was manned by the wonderful Community team at Midland Mencap.

Our Get Creative Day followed on from this, as our way to celebrating Learning Disability Week. We hosted a variety of activities at Weoley Castle Community Centre, including arts and crafts, creative writing, baking sessions and drama workshops. We provided citizens and their carers with new ways to express their creativity and stretch their skills.

Our Children and Young People’s team offered various events for families across the West Midlands. We received funding from Tesco Community Fund to run October half-term fun days at Ackers and a Scout Camp site in Coventry. Families were able to experience new activities, such as canoeing, an inflatable obstacle course, and tobogganing down dry ski slopes together. These sessions were accessible for all and enjoyed by everyone involved.


Over the course of 2022, we’ve led a huge range of projects, across every team at Midland Mencap. We’ve provided citizens with new experiences, support for carers in Birmingham and encouraged creativity through new sessions.

Midland Mencap and Forward Carers teamed up this year to host two on-going sessions for carers in Birmingham. Carers could experience monthly Musical Meet Ups at Symphony Hall, where local artists would perform a lunchtime concert for them. It gave them a chance to take a break, listen to some of the best sounds in Brum and a chance to engage with our Family Carers team.

Speaking of music, we also launched a project with Henry Liggins called ‘Creative Minds’. In these regular sessions, citizens could learn more about music theory, learn songs and instruments, with the goal of recording them in a real recording studio. The recording session happened earlier this month and you can check out the final track here.

This year, we recognised that it was our duty to offer exceptional support, guidance and service, regardless of who needed it. That’s why we launched the ‘Warm Spaces’ and bought a new Bungalow. The Warm Spaces project was in collaboration with Birmingham City Council, offering a place for the local community to come, enjoy a heated area, with hot drinks and food to purchase. We met people where they were at and ensured our newly launched Community Café was being put to the best use, to serve the people of Weoley Castle and South Birmingham in their potential times of need.

In addition, we took this same mentality in the purchase of our new Bungalow in Quinton. We fully renovated and kitted out a property for a citizen to live in. Originally living in a high-rise tower, with limited working elevators, our citizen now has a place to call home that is accessible and inclusive. Check out the renovation process over on our YouTube channel.

Beyond these practical projects, we offered employment skills workshops and volunteering opportunities through our PURE team working with Fircroft College. We hosted a graduation for citizens who had had placements and workshops with us and our partners. If you’d like to hear more about employment opportunities and skills you can learn, get in touch with our PURE team here:

Our final new project was launched by our Communication and Marketing team. A podcast! You may have seen a few of our monthly episodes already. Ashleigh Jones is our resident host on the show, ‘Citizen Chatter’, and has been interviewing some incredible guests. We have big plans for 2023, so watch this space. Catch up on all the available episodes via any podcast stores or our YouTube channel.

Wider West Midlands

Of course, we couldn’t give you a year in review without talking about our wider services across the West Midlands. This year we launched our Worcester Adult Services, had the Flyerz Festival in Coventry and Walsall continued their weekly activities.

The Flyerz Festival was the first grassroots inclusive disability hockey event that was ahead of the Commonwealth Games. We partnered with Access Sport and England Hockey to host over 100 participants throughout the festival, whereby disabled and non-disabled players came together to join in the fun. It was a huge success, seeing people from across Coventry and the West Midlands learn more about accessible sport.

Whereas over in Walsall, our Hub team continued their weekly timetable and saw a regular group of citizens develop their skills, make friendships and experience new places through day trips and sessions. You can catch up with what the Walsall team are doing through their Twitter or our Facebook page.

2022 saw our Worcester team officially launch day sessions for Adults in the area. From trips and experiences, to sessions that broadened their skills and friendships, we’ve seen a growing level of success in this new service we host. We’re aiming to broaden the Worcester service even further in 2023, so watch this space!

On-Going Services

Our final portion of our Year in Review is our two on-going services: Parkride and the Citizen’s Network Panel. They’ve seen steady growth with more people coming along to get involved in local activities, improve their health and wellbeing, and use their voices for change across the West Midlands.

Ashleigh Jones, our Include Me Coordinator, launched panel meetings this year. Every few weeks, citizens and their families could express their opinions and thoughts about having a disability or long-term health condition in the West Midlands, and what life is like. This year saw more face-to-face sessions as well as being accessible with meetings over Zoom too. Our next meeting is in January 2023; details can be found via our website.

Overall, it’s been another brilliant year. We’re so proud of our citizens, families and teams for all they have achieved. We’ve supported more communities than ever and we can’t wait for what 2023 brings!

If you would like to learn more about any of the services we offer at Midland Mencap:

Call: 0121 442 2944 or
Email: HCS@midlandmencap.org.uk

Have you ever thought about volunteering? But kids and childcare and errands and, and, and… don’t worry, we understand – life is busy!

There are many benefits to volunteering and here are 5 Reasons why you should make time to volunteer:

1. Improve Your Skills

Volunteering can improve your skills in a whole host of different ways. From communication to teamwork and time management, you’ll develop various skills that could be mentioned on your CV. Employers are always looking for excellent interpersonal skills and volunteering, even just a few hours a week, can really help with that.

2. Improve Your Mental Health

Helping and supporting others around you can improve your own Mental Health. Being able to focus on someone else can reduce the feeling of stress and improve well-being. This, in turn, can improve your confidence and self-esteem and bring a more positive outlook in new situations.

3. The Feel-Good Factor

Supporting a cause you are passionate about can give you that warm feeling inside, that you’re doing something good in your local community and for something you are passionate about.

Here at Midland Mencap, we love getting volunteers involved in our projects and want them to feel like they are giving back in the way they want to.

4. Meet New People

In a world that spends their life super-glued to their phone, volunteering offers that small window of opportunity to meet new people in your local community.

Whether you spend time with our citizens, wider Midland Mencap team or other volunteers, you’ll be able to form meaningful friendships with those around you.

Our Community and Group Befriender roles are the perfect examples of this and would be excellent if you want to spend quality time with citizens within the West Midlands area.

5. Gain New Experiences

Volunteering can allow you a few hours a week or month to experience something new. Whether it be through supporting an event or campaign we run or at some of our weekly sessions, you’ll find yourself making memories and learning more about your local community every time.

We offer a wide range of roles to get involved in. Whether you want to stick with one role or swap every few months, we can ensure you’ll have a fantastic experience volunteering with us, whatever you decide to be involved in. You can even attend taster sessions and find the role you.

If you’d like to get involved with us as a volunteer, check out our Volunteer Roles, click here.

It’s that time again, folks. The weather has turned colder, it’s getting darker earlier and you can’t help but be bombarded with Christmas music everywhere you go. But the debate on everyone’s mind around the office is ‘what is the best Christmas film?’ Whilst there are so many to choose from, we have narrowed it down to just five!

1. Home Alone

It’s a classic, isn’t it? From protecting the house from the baddies, to putting on aftershave (and immediately regretting it), Kevin is left home alone over Christmas by mistake. Whilst his family whisks off to Paris, he finds himself able to do everything he had always wanted to – staying up late, being in his older brother’s room and eating whatever he wants!

But how Christmassy is it, really? We’re giving it a 5/5 rating. From the music, to the feel-good, family factor, Home Alone has everything for a traditional Christmas film!

2. The Grinch (Who Stole Christmas)

For all you humbugs out there who hear the Christmas music in the supermarket (but wish you wouldn’t), this film is for you. The Grinch lives high in the mountains, away from Whoville, a town who are undeniably the ultimate Christmas-fans. He plans to ‘steal’ Christmas – from their tree to their spirit – there is just one small matter…Cindy Lou. It’s a family-friendly adventure about family, friendship and the spirit of Christmas. Even you humbugs will crack a smile at this Christmas movie!

That’s why we’re giving it a 4/5 Christmas rating – it’s funny, heart-warming and we think Max, the Grinch’s dog, is pretty cute, too!

3. Elf

If you are need of a film that is slapstick funny, that is so ridiculous yet wonderful; then Elf is the one for you. It is as if someone has sprinkles ‘Christmas joy’ over the entirety of this film.

Buddy, a human who was transported to the North Pole as a young child, struggles to shake the fact he is different to his friends, Santa’s elves. So, he heads off to New York in search of his long-lost Father – a business man who does not share Buddy’s Christmas passion. The film provides endless jokes and gags, as Buddy explores the meaning of Christmas.

Overall, it’s a hilarious, extra-Christmassy, film. We give it a 4/5.

4. It’s a Wonderful Life

We know we said Home Alone is a classic but…THIS is the definition of the word ‘classic’. Right? It felt wrong to not include this in our list. It is Christmas- film heritage, after all.

As George looks back on his life, in a dark moment one evening, he is shown by angels how his wonderful actions have impacted his entire town for the better. It’s a beautiful, yet very sad, film about the beauty of Christmas.

Purely for the fact it makes everyone cry at Christmas, we’re giving this film a 3/5. But saying that, it’s also a great film to nap through, just after your huge portion of roast dinner. (Not that we’ve done that before…)

5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

From chopping down a tree in the middle of nowhere, to a burnt-out turkey, to lights that won’t turn on (and then cause a power shortage…of the entire street), this film has the makings of a pretty bad film. However, you would be incorrect.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation provides laugh-out-loud entertainment for the whole family. It is so outlandish and ‘extra’, you can’t help but laugh. For everyone who is used to big family get-togethers over the holidays, this film explores all the things that could (and do) go wrong, in the most outrageously hilarious way.

This film deserves a 4/5 in the fact you can watch it year on year and still laugh at the jokes every year. Whilst the entire theme is Christmas, it isn’t so slapstick and in-your-face as Elf. It mixes the humour for children and adults as well, which gives a longevity to the movie.

Midland Mencap is one of the region’s leading learning disability charities with a strong, respected, and established reputation for excellence and innovation. Employees span across the West Midlands, with a vast variety of roles and daily routines. No two days are the same and neither are the positions we offer here.

The vision of our Job Insights monthly blog is to give employees and roles a chance to educate, explore and celebrate all the hard work we know they do. It aims to allow roles that, if you didn’t know were there, wouldn’t necessarily be known about. We hope you’ll come away with a better understanding of who exactly makes up the amazing Midland Mencap team.

This Christmas, we interviewed Sarah Lynch who one of our amazing Family Project Workers. We chatted about family, managing work-life balance and being a family-carer herself. Sarah has three boys and one girl, two of which have learning disabilities, so she understands the struggles and the joys of life, all too well. Throughout the interview, Sarah’s zest for life, passion for Birmingham and families who are parent-carers themselves, significantly shined through.

Sarah began by explaining what a Family Project Worker does, stating that their team is there to support, encourage and guide carers. The team is split across the five areas of Birmingham – North, South, East, West and Central. Sarah is responsible for the South. Sessions are split between either one-on-one and individual focus or group work.

One on one support can include their initial assessment; identifying what might be missing, seeing where they need additional support, making an action plan and then ensuring it is put into place for them. Support can include respite care, additional funding, helping them find the correct school placements and encouraging them to partake in meaningful things to do as a family, that are inclusive.

Group work is more social, in that Midland Mencap offers coffee mornings, Musical Meet Ups, small group sessions and parent-carer training. Sarah runs ‘drop-ins, so if they can’t commit to weekly support groups or coffee mornings, they can just pop and see me, ask for general advice.’ She explained that whilst some issues may be able to be resolved there and then, some are then be referred through the wider Family Carers team as it’ll require further support.

Sarah, being a parent-carer as well, knows the realities of what carers go through. Her passion lies within supporting them at whatever point in the process they are at – whether newly diagnosed, needing resources or simply going through the motions of every day life. Reflecting on her own experiences, Sarah explained, “I wish I had somebody in my corner with me. Just to sit in meetings, if I didn’t understand something, or I was so emotional I couldn’t take it all in; somebody in a professional role sat next to me, taking it all in for me and can that on-going support afterwards”. Her experience and wisdom of being a parent-carer herself has allowed her empathy to shine through significantly, because she understands entirely the difficulties new, and seasoned, carers may often face.

The way Sarah ran through memories of her children growing up – appointments, assessments, learning to adapt daily life to a new narrative – was really striking in that her compassion for others and her patience for their situations was unending. From having to change simple words and phrases, to recognising how to communicate with her youngest especially, as he was non-verbal for the first four years of his life (he is now 6 years old); “playing catch up” to get him to a higher level of development was a learning-curve they had to quickly learn. Whereas her older son, who was diagnosed as a teenager, needed structure and routine. Their situation resulted in him moving schools, where he thrived under the new circumstances. Being able to support her children, experiencing the different elements that come with being a parent-carer, Sarah explained that she feels well-equipped to support others, too.

But was working in the Third/Charity sector always the goal? When Sarah left school at 16, with GCSEs but no A Levels to her name, she enrolled in a Hairdressing course at college. However, she found that once she begun to have children at aged 18, her career focus began to evolve. Originally working in the private sector, Sarah realised that there were many more people out there who didn’t have the money to such high-quality care, support and guidance, and so, found herself entering the charity sector. She “absolutely loved” the face-to-face opportunities to support citizens with mental health whilst working for a charity in Sandwell, “reaching individuals in their homes and offering that level of support”.

Ultimately, that passion for others led Sarah to Midland Mencap; “it just feels right to me that care and support is accessible to everybody”. Front line work is where she feels she’ll stay (and we’ll be exceptionally glad to have her continue to stay!). We asked Sarah if her 14-year-old self would have thought she’d be in this line of work in her now-thirties; she replied, “Yeah! I think so. I always knew I wanted to be a Mum, wanted to give and care for people. It’s just within me.” With having two children that have Learning Disabilities, it has given Sarah the opportunity to broaden that skill set and expertise of caring on not just a professional level, but a personal one, too.

Our Family Carers teams work with such a range of people, from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances, which results in every day looking a little different to the next. Sarah explained that every family that are involved in the work we do has a different story; “every family is equally important, regardless of their diagnosis or going through a diagnosis, the fact they are caring for their mum and they have dementia, or the fact they have MS – they are all carers, so we go in with eyes wide open to whatever their needs may be.” This can be touching base with carers, especially if they need additional support due to child protection plans in place or be in an emotionally vulnerable situation. As a result of how much time and energy Carers invest into their roles and lives of those they care for, it can become their identity, which is why Sarah always begins every session with a new carer getting to know who they are. She explained that so often they can get so wrapped up in appointments, assessments, new information constantly and they forget that they have an individual identity, too; “I find that’s a really important question for me – ‘can you tell me who you are? Not the carer, not the Mum; who are you?’”. It begins to humanise their experiences again, giving them ownership of their identity.

Christmas can be a difficult time for carers for many reasons. Children, for example, are not in school. This can become an issue for those carers that may be quite isolated, with no family or friends around to support. In addition, the festive period can bring a lot of change – something which can be challenging for those with Learning Disabilities. Something as simple as going to the supermarket to do the weekly shop can become a huge mountain due to things like the music in the background being different, Christmas items being on the shelves, shops are much busier.

That being said, Sarah pointed out, there have been significant improvements in the last few years for accessibility and accommodating alternatives. For instance, whilst visiting Santa’s Grotto is an activity many families partake in during the Christmas period, it can be quite a demanding experience for those with Learning Disabilities. That being said, there are some garden centres across the West Midlands that, during pre-booking, will offer a space for accessibility suggestions or comments, to support your visit. Visual aids can also be a beneficial tool for parent-carers, such as presenting a structure or order of their day, allowing them the time to process any change that might occur. Or, preparing the child(ren) by showing them pictures of Santa, what a Grotto might look like, what sounds might be around and explaining what the experience will entail. Such tools won’t erase their potentially difficulties, but it might offer a softer approach that could lead to a smoother day for them and the family.

Sarah explained that many parents – both those who care for others and even those that don’t – feel high amounts of pressure of the Christmas period. From present giving, to cooking the perfect dinner, to ensuring everyone is happy throughout the day. But regardless of if whether things go to ‘plan’ or not – they may not want to open their presents, or they want to eat something different – it’s important not to worry about it. If, for example, you are due to see family at a certain time, but you know that it simply won’t happen, Sarah recommends you communicate with your family. “I’m pretty sure family will understand. Communication with family and friends, not just with your cared for, will go a long way.”

Ultimately, being a parent-carer and being part of the Family Carers team is hard but rewarding work. It is possible to branch into this line of work without qualifications – Sarah explained that whilst she has built up an impressive portfolio of training over the years, she left school with only GCSEs at age 16. “I just think these types of roles, it’s not about what’s on paper; it’s about what’s in your heart and what you want to achieve, wanting to give.” It’s an emotionally demanding role, and it certainly isn’t for everyone; but within the wider Midland Mencap team, it’s one part of the cog that ensures our organisation runs smoothly and that we can reach out, support, and engage with the most vulnerable within the West Midlands. Midland Mencap offer support in a holistic way.

“Sometimes the only thing to say to carers is that it is hard, to give that validation, that ‘what you are going, Mum, is hard and you should be so proud that you are getting up everyday and still doing it’”.

This September, we’re bringing you the insight to our Business Development Manager, Laura Gilmour. From being one of the leads for the Sutton Park Challenge, to having a passion for people and applying for grants on behalf of Midland Mencap, Laura’s role is multi-faceted, busy yet rewarding. Join us as we dive straight into all she does.

Laura, born and bred Birmingham, has had a passion for sport since her school years. She was on the rounders, hockey, and netball teams but it wasn’t “the elite element of sport” and competition that drew Laura in; rather, the social side of teamwork and community. Laura reflected, “I was conscious that there weren’t many opportunities for girls in sport; it was mainly focused around the boys”, giving an example of how she remembered trying to get a team of 10 girls together but the boys’ teams were always oversubscribed. As a result, her passion led her to study Biology and Sport Science at Aberystwyth University in Wales. One thing was abundantly clear – she did not want to be a PE teacher, despite how her interests lied within sport and education; “everyone wanted to be a teacher, but I knew I didn’t want to…I knew my area was in community and helping people.”

So, it was pretty fitting that her first role at Midland Mencap was our Senior Sports Worker. The role was formed from funding given by Sport England, as a nod to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. As a result, Laura and the team she was a part of, there was an opportunity to create sports teams for the citizens at Midland Mencap. Sports that weren’t usually taught or practiced in schools, with support for those with disabilities and learning disabilities, were particularly focused on. This project gave Midland Mencap a “complete”, holistic approach to sport and Laura a chance to combine her passion for sport and people.

Moving forwards, Laura became our Health and Wellbeing Co-ordinator, which still had a sporty-feel, but focused more on activities such as Wellbeing Walks – which we still have on offer today. This role worked alongside the team based at The Hub and focused primarily on delivery of sessions and working in a face-to-face environment.

These experiences all led to Laura applying for the Business Development Manager position. As we know, she was successful and as a result, we’ve had the privilege of running some amazing projects and sessions that Laura has been instrumental in gaining funding for. But what exactly does ‘Business Development Manager’ mean? Laura describes it being split into two avenues: the first being developing relationships and networks with people, particularly outside of Birmingham. As Midland Mencap continues to grow and expand, our strategic focus is to work in the wider West Midlands; Laura’s role is to cultivate the necessary relationships to enable us to do that.

The second being to bring in additional funding, to allow us to run a wide range of projects for citizens, carers, and families. Laura explained, “we seek our funding from different areas; statutory funding, commission funding and then external sources such as small grants, charitable trusts and big overarching bodies like Sport England and the National Lottery.” It’s Laura’s role to apply for those grants, working alongside the various teams within Midland Mencap, to ensure we are successful. Each funder often wants slightly different criteria and so Laura tailor’s each application appropriately, with the support of the team she’s working with.

On a day-to-day basis this role is “reactive”, as Laura explains, “because you never know when a funder is going to put out an application for a tender”. Skills required in this role range from excellent communication, being able to research and have a good memory is also a plus, in Laura’s opinion. In addition, teamwork is a valuable skill, as her role requires involving numerous other teams who ensure projects are successful.

One of Laura’s main projects is the Sutton Park Challenge. Taking place on the 2nd of October 2021, you are able to take challenge to complete a 1km, 5km or 10km at Sutton Park, in Sutton Coldfield. Originally started by Mencap, Midland Mencap had the opportunity to host the event in 2019, and now two years on, we’re back and “extremely hopeful that people are going to come back to the run and get more people”. As a charity that strives on being accessible, Laura and the team have made inclusivity “front and centre” with “a number of different distances, no time limit; they can run, walk, jog, they can wheel, they can push their children in pushchairs – they can even walk their dog!” Similarly, we have buddy runners and a British Sign Language interpreter at the start of the race, too. It’s an event that not only is Laura passionate about, but the whole team is as well – striving for a fun, inclusive run for all.

Beyond the Sutton Park Run, where does Laura see her role going? Well, beyond Birmingham, for sure! As mentioned earlier, Midland Mencap are focused and excited to reach past the Birmingham walls, to meet and support new people across the West Midlands as a whole. Also, there is always more funding to apply to, with more projects to run. For Laura personally she summarised life at Midland Mencap well in that, “I suppose that’s the thing about [working here]; you never know where opportunities are going to come up and when. This organisation has grown massively since I started eight years ago, so I guess you have to wait and see”.

Whether it be in the next few weeks, with Sutton Park Run, or projects in the pipeline, we’re grateful for Laura’s determination, dedication to supporting citizens of the West Midlands and her passion for sport. Being a Business Development Manager is an ever-expanding role; we can’t wait to see where Laura takes us next!

With this year’s Sutton Park Challenge fast approaching, we’re excited to announce we have two returning runners taking part! Tim and Millie both took part in our 2019 run and are back to join in all the race day fun again.

In 2019 Tim Livesley came first in the 10k race with an impressive chip time of 39:44. We asked him about his Sutton Park experience.

“The route weaves though woods on tarmac paths past friendly marshals. I’d recommend the race to runners of all abilities – it’s a lovely way to see the park, lots of support, and an opportunity to get a good time. This year I wanted to try something new, so I’ve volunteered to ride the lead bike to keep the front runners on course.”

We’re excited to welcome Tim back as a marshal and lead bike this year. We are sure he’ll do an excellent job of guiding our runners through our course, to the finish line!

One aspect of the race that we are especially passionate about is the fact it is highly accessible and inclusive. Whether you want to run, walk or push someone else in a wheelchair, we encourage you to challenge yourself. Millie was a runner that pushed her brother-in-law in his wheelchair in 2019. This year, she is back and ready to step up an even bigger challenge – the 5km run!

Our poster stars Millie and Andrew took part in the fun run in 2019. We asked Millie to reflect on her experience of the event:

“In 2019 along with my husband, we pushed my brother-in-law Andrew in his wheelchair for the 1km fun run for Midland Mencap. We all had an absolute blast, and Andrew loved being able to join in, having always been a cheerleader on the side for me when he has come out to support my running. The event was really well organised with fantastic volunteers and we had a great day. This year Andrew and I are returning to take on the 5km challenge. We decided to go for the longer race as lockdown has meant Andrew hasn’t been able to do so many of the fun things he loves to do, so we want to make the most of it!”

If you want to join Millie and Andrew in the challenge this year, sign up here: https://midlandmencap.org.uk/sutton-park-challenge/

We look forward to seeing you on the 2nd October, Runners!

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Midland Mencap is one of the region’s leading learning disability charities with a strong, respected and established reputation for excellence and innovation. Employees span across the West Midlands, with a vast variety of roles and daily routines. No two days are the same and neither are the positions we offer here.

The vision of our Job Insights monthly blog is to give employees and roles a chance to educate, explore and celebrate all the hard work we know they do. It aims to allow roles that, if you didn’t know were there, wouldn’t necessarily be known about. We hope you’ll come away with a better understanding of who exactly makes up the amazing Midland Mencap team.

This month we’re starting with Pam Johnson, our Operations Manager of External Relationships and Parkride. You may know Pam from our Parkride sessions, meetings with various external partners or stakeholders, or even when she went away with the Midland Mencap Flyers a few years ago. But if you don’t know Pam and all that she does, we thought we’d invite you to gain a better understand into her and her role with us at Midland Mencap.

What exactly does ‘Operations Manager of External Relationships and Parkride’ do?

According to Pam, the role is split between two parts; the first being to work within the 7 local authority areas, alongside the West Midlands Combined Authority, building relationships with key stakeholders. This often includes local authorities and council, public health, NHS and voluntary organisations. The aim is to connect those stakeholders to Midland Mencap, allowing Pam to be an advocate for all that we do, raising our profile and awareness to even more people.

The second part to Pam’s job is to lead the Parkride team, which offers accessible and adapted cycling. Growing enormously over the last 18 months; we’re now part of 4 local authority areas and an ever-expanding fantastic team. Parkride engages with over 350 individuals through the project across various sessions. It’s safe to say it keeps Pam (very) busy!

The question is – was this always where she thought her career would lead to? Pam explained, “when I first started I hadn’t really put them into ‘boxes’; I just wanted to work with people…with Learning Disabilities”. From a placement to a long-stay institution, to pursuing a career in nursing that eventually didn’t work out. Pam began working at Royal Mencap in 1987, working there for over 26 years. Working in numerous roles over time, eventually a role led her to work alongside local groups, one of which being Midland Mencap. Little did she know that not long after leaving Royal Mencap, her now-position would be offered to her – 7 years on, Pam is on the Senior Management team and busy as ever!

That busyness can come in the form of emails, meetings with Midland Mencap staff and external partners. Topics range from marketing strategies to discussions around the adaptations of low-rise buses in cities across the West Midlands. Most recently, Pam has been working alongside those involved in the Commonwealth Games, with the aim of ensuring inclusion and accessibility for those with Learning Disabilities.

Whether it’s working to promote Parkride to other local authorities, supporting families and the team she leads, Pam believes her job is “being around people, about being a good communicator. It’s about having an understanding of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.” As an organisation, Midland Mencap believes our success is down to listening. Listening to our citizens, their families and carers. We shape and design quality services by listening and responding to what people tell us. Pam’s role is an integral part of that process.

That isn’t to say there aren’t any difficulties that appear along the way. With only so many hours within a working day, time can escape – particularly when confined to Zoom/Teams calls! Pam discussed that being “physically in a building with somebody…being able to read their body language to see whether they are fully engaged” can impact the building of relationships – both on an organisational and external level.

Pam’s role and journey at Midland Mencap has brought her highlights of supporting Midland Mencap’s Flyerz hockey team at their international tournaments; “there is no better feeling than when they walk(ed) out onto that pitch and they (were) representing England at a competition level.” Similarly, her pride extended to being part of the on-going success and development of the Parkride project.

Can or will that excitement continue over the next 5 years? Pam thinks so! Aside from seeing the progression of her role as a whole, being able to witness the “fruition” of “(getting) more services in other areas” and making “Parkride the leading accessible cycling (project)” are all in her sights.

Overall, Pam’s heart is for the families, the carers and the amazing people with Learning Disabilities that we support every day. Whether that be through the Parkride project, building the confidence and abilities on a bike, or advocating for those that we support in every local authority in the West Midlands, Pam’s role is far reaching and ever-developing. We can confidently say we’re mighty grateful to have Pam and everything she does!

Look out for more Job Insights blogs coming your way.

If you would like more information on the Parkride project, see here:

If you’d like to support the work Pam and the wider Midland Mencap team does, you can get involved in our Sutton Park Challenge in October 2021. Sign up here![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5100″ img_size=”full” onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank” link=”https://midlandmencap.org.uk/sutton-park-challenge/”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

For about 18 months my husband and I have enjoyed cycling in Woodgate Valley with the team from Mencap.

During lockdown new paths were installed in Woodgate and this has been a remarkable transformation.

We always enjoyed riding up and down the path and it was good exercise in the fresh air but, in truth, it was rather monotonous.

Now I feel a freedom, that I have never felt before, as I free wheel down the hill.

That in itself is exhilarating and I feel like a bird soaring at speed.

Having mobility issues this is such a unique, wonderful and memorable sensation.

The route I follow is just beautiful. During the seasons there has been an ever changing vista.

There have been beautiful flowers and plants; blossoms, daises, buttercups, celandines, clovers, cow parsley, bluebells, angelica, dog roses, vetch, red campion, wild garlic and others, names of which are unbeknown to me.

The song of the birds is uplifting and during my last few visits I have paused by the meadow to observe the dozens of butterflies and moths.

It reminds me of the poem by W.H.Davies, “What is this life if, full of care We have no time to stand and stare…”

Every week is different, each a golden opportunity to see nature at close quarters, to observe the changing seasons, to recharge batteries and uplift spirits.

The benefits of this fantastic scheme are self evident, a wonderful way of strengthening or at least maintaining muscle power. We would be so grateful if it was just that, but it is so much more.

The impact on mental health is so positive. I look forward to that hill every week, with the breeze blowing through my hair and the thrill of speed. (Steve does remind me to test the brakes EVERY time!)

It is such a thrilling exhilarating experience which impacts on our whole well being, not just the physical aspect.
None of this is possible without the FANTASTIC staff to come in all weathers to enable this magic to happen.

Without exception they are so supportive and encouraging. “You can do this” If we get stuck they give us an unobtrusive push. They make it so easy for us to succeed and they boost our confidence in our own ability.

We cannot begin to tell you what a wonderful experience this is, something to look forward to, come rain or shine.

We would like to say a HUGE thank you to EVERYONE connected to ‘Park Ride’ including the office staff and those who arrange, secure and supply funding.

We want you to know what a positive impact it has had on our lives and we are so very
grateful to you all, each and everyone.

Our frontline support staff have been superhero’s throughout the last year and a half hear first hand from a family member how the housing care and support workers have managed to continued to give the best support to Angela regardless of the circumstance.

“I just wanted to write to ask you to pass on to the team that work with my Auntie my thanks for everything that they have done for Angela during this past year. It has been a great comfort to my family and I that Angela’s entire team has gone above and beyond in their care for her during the pandemic.

Aisha was really quick to ensure that Angela was safe at home and not going out unless it was essential right from last February before we were in any kind of lockdown. She has been instrumental in getting Angela the vaccine as soon as was possible and her and Karyl worked to make sure that Angela had her vaccine at home – repeatedly chasing up the Dr’s until Angela was put on the home visit list.

I would like to particularly extend my thanks to the staff for the speed with which they organised for Angela and myself to Skype as we could not visit. It has been incredible to be able to see Angela each week and see how well looked after she is. For someone who we almost lost last year to infections and a mini stroke she looks absolutely amazing.

Aisha, Karyl, Rama and Solange are doing a fantastic job looking after Angela under some very difficult circumstances and to see how Angela has improved each week makes us very happy. The dedication of the whole team to Angela’s care is something I will be forever grateful for. I was very pleased to hear how quickly the staff were vaccinated and how they are not taking Angela out until she has her second vaccine and we are looking forward to visiting Angela as soon as we have all been fully vaccinated too.

Once again, thank you to the entire team at Midland Mencap for taking such fantastic care during such trying times.”

If you would like to learn more about how our housing, care and support services can support you or a loved one call us on 0121 442 2944 or email HCS@midlandmencap.org.uk.

In April, community coordinators Kay and Tess gave an online presentation to students from Queen Alexandra College , giving a talk about life after college. Students were able to watch the presentation on zoom and it was also streamed on youtube so that people all across Birmingham and potentially the world could see the opportunities and activities on offer to school leavers. We hope to see new people joining the adult community hub at our activities after September!

After a long covid-lockdown break, the Coventry Wayfarers group has started back in the centre of Coventry. To make sure we are still safe, the members have been welcomed back in groups of 5 each week. It’s been fantastic to see members come back to the session and a chance for covid-safe socialising after spending so much time away from each other. We hope to increase the group sizes even more in the coming weeks as the club gets up and running.

In May we sadly said goodbye to a much loved staff member and football coach Abdul Kenewa as he moves onto another career path. He has spent many years going the extra mile to support and engage citizens across our sporting activities and will be greatly missed by staff, players and families alike!

Luckily we have a brand new football coach – Isaac, who we have all welcomed to the team. He has already supported the team at the Birmingham Ability Counts League, which is a tournament of local disability football teams held once a month in Moseley. Join Isaac and the football team every Wednesday evening at training!

In May community coordinator Tess started a 3 week course for citizens – A Healthier Me.
Part funded by Mencap, citizens have been learning about the impact of different eating choices and what the differences are between being healthy and unhealthy. So far we have learned about the 5 food groups, portion sizes, what happens to the body when we make unhealthy food choices, oral hygiene, sugar, fats, healthy food swaps, shopping tips and food labels! A weekly 2 hour session includes one hour of learning and one hour of helping to prepare a healthy lunch or snack, such as chicken salads wraps, fruit salad and cous cous and roasted vegetables!

We hope to run the course again, so if you want to join us please get in touch to go on our waiting list! #ahealthierme

Group sizes at the Weoley Castle Community Centre are steadily increasing in line with Government guidelines – now hosting up to 10 people during seated and tabletop activities.Call us on 0121 427 6404 to see whats on and booking options!

We celebrated community coordinator Kay Franklins 60th birthday!

Our sailing and paddleboarding sessions have been enjoyed by a growing number of citizens and carers over the past few weeks. Join us on thursdays at Edgbaston Reservoir at the Midlands Sailing Club to try your hand on the water!

Want to get involved in our community activities?
Call 0121 427 6404 or email communityhub@midlandmencap.org.uk