South Wilts Mencap: News

South Wilts Mencap news along with local and national stories relating to people with learning disabilities.

Special School Update 30 November

WPCC have released a further update following a Cabinet meeting.

Wiltshire Council Cabinet met on Tuesday 27th November to discuss the proposal for special school provision in Wiltshire. The agenda item to consider the proposal concluded with Wiltshire Council’s cabinet backing a £20m investment to create a new centre of excellence for pupils with special needs in the county. The new school will be developed at Rowdeford near Devizes to match the facilities at Exeter House, Salisbury.

Cabinet members agreed the proposals and for a statutory consultation on the creation of the new school. The final decision will be made at Cabinet in March 2019.

The recording of the Cabinet meeting, along with minutes and questions received can be found on the Wiltshire Council website (item 300).

WPCC are also maintaining a Q&A document that responds to questions being raised by parent carers which can be viewed here.

Multitude of Voyces

South Wilts Mencap were delighted to enable Multitude of Voyces to bring their pilot project to Salisbury, thanks to a grant.

Multitude of Voyces worked with children with SEND from several primary in Salisbury, bringing them together in a performance of music with Makaton at St Thomas’s Church, as part of their Christmas Tree Festival. 

Images thanks to: 

Celebrate Life CD

Celebrate Life is an album of original songs written by Foundation Studies students at Wiltshire College & University Centre, Salisbury, in collaboration with La Folia Music.

Available to buy online now – click here to purchase. 

Silver Sunday December Events

Irene Kohler, Salisbury Area Board’s Older People’s Champion is delighted that Philip Tomes the Salisbury Library manager has agreed to put on two events as pre-Christmas treats for people of 55 and over.  The Techy Tea Party and the Prose and Poetry sessions, part of the Silver Sunday programme celebrating International Older People’s Day at the beginning of October proved to be very popular with many requests for repeats.

There will be a techy tea party on Monday 10 December from 2.30 to 4pm.  Accompanied by tea/coffee and cake, people of 55 and over can take their mobile phone, tablet or other device and receive one-to-one help in resolving the mysteries of its various functions.

On Tuesday 11 December, from 2.30 to 4pm, people of 55 and over are invited to share their favourite poem or piece of prose which may have a Christmas theme or be your favourite piece.  Irene says that she will be there and is already looking through to see which pieces to share.

If you wish to attend either of these events, please leave your name at the library reception desk.

Exeter House School Christmas Bazaar

Exeter House School are holding their Christmas Bazaar on Friday 7 December.

1.30-2.30pm Students of Exeter House daytime event with stalls, games and tea

5-7pm Friends of Exeter House Family fundraising event with stalls, games, festive food, mulled wine, face painting, fabulous raffle prizes and Father Christmas

New Provision for Children and Young People with ASD/ SEMH – meeting for parents

A meeting took place at Sarum Academy on 9th October for parents of children attending Sarum Academy, and Wiltshire Council has planned a follow-up meeting for all parents interested in this new provision. The meeting will take place at Sarum Academy on 7th December from 12:00pm to 1:30pm.

Alan Stubbersfield (Project Lead for Wiltshire Council) as well as a representative from Wiltshire Parent Carer Council will be among those attending the meeting.

This meeting has been planned to enable parents to ask questions, especially as some questions asked at the session in October went beyond what could be answered at that stage. The aim of the meeting will be to listen to parents and what they want to know about this new ASD/SEMH provision, and be as clear as possible about the long term as well as what is happening sooner.

It would be helpful to know how many people want to come, so please confirm your attendance by contacting Springfields School at by the 5th of December 2018.

Special Schools Update 22nd November 2018

Written by Wiltshire Parent Carer Council:

As a result of consultation (a pre-statutory consultation was approved by Cabinet and ended on 31st July 2018, this included an online consultation) on the options to expand capacity in special schools for pupils with complex needs presented to Cabinet in May 2018, a report setting out proposals to invest £20million in state of the provision will be presented to Wiltshire Council Cabinet on Tuesday 27th November 2018.

In considering contributions from all stakeholders (including parent carers, children and young people), the proposal will be to recommend an option to provide a special purpose built school with well-equipped small classes on a spacious site, with separate post 16 provision and a commitment to develop centres of excellence for children and young people with SEND across the county. The recommendation is that once the new school opens in approximately 5 years’ time, the existing three special schools in Chippenham, Trowbridge and Rowde will be replaced by the new school.

Additional to this provision, it is also proposed to work in partnership with Somerset Road Education Trust to develop the provision at Exeter House School, Salisbury to become a centre of excellence for the south of the county. The proposal will address the need for an additional 220 SEND places for Wiltshire while providing a number of features including:-

  • Specialist integrated facilities, therapies and support which stakeholders voiced during consultation and engagement as particularly important, such as hydrotherapy pools, sensory rooms, physio, open outdoor space, speech and language therapy and family care
  • Closer links between SEND schools and neighbouring mainstream schools 
  • Links with specialist nurseries offering children with special needs a seamless experience from very small to teenage years

This aspiration is not dissimilar to the approach taken in BaNES some years ago which resulted in the amalgamation of three smaller special schools (Royal United Hospital School, Summerfield School, and Lime Grove School) and the building of Three Ways School. Three Ways School is judged an Outstanding school by OfSTED and is popular with many Wiltshire families. The report acknowledges responses to consultation and engagement which includes messages about the importance of quality of staff, supporting young people to develop skills for adult life, the importance of design so that spaces and a school don’t feel too big, Rowde was the preferred location for siting a new school, the need for a wide range of facilities, and the importance of travel.

The WPCC recognises that parents have said that they would like to be involved in the design and planning of any new building, and we have expressed this. Later in the report, there is an explanation of the different options that have been explored including the consideration of different sites within the county, and particular mention has been made to the Ashton Street site which the report says was given particular support from parent carers and governors of Larkrise School (Appendices 5 and 6 of the report explain the considerations of the different sites explored.

The WPCC recognises that this is significant investment that is much needed to meet the ever increasing demands on special school provision in Wiltshire and the proposal seeks to address the contributions from stakeholders such as aspiring to provide integrated therapies within a purpose built environment, create centres of excellence to support neighbouring mainstream schools, develop facilities such as a café and gardens to integrate the community into the school and provide young people with an increased range of transferable skills, and increase capacity so that fewer children have to travel to schools in other authorities or be home educated if that is not their preference.

However, the WPCC also recognises that in aspiring to provide pupils with SEND with the best facilities, the best teaching and the best learning environment where they can thrive, the proposal, will create anxiety for some families and we don’t in any way want to underestimate this.

The WPCC will continue to provide as much information as possible to keep parent carers informed and we are assured by Wiltshire Council, that whatever the Cabinet decision is, there will be many further opportunities to continue to be involved in conversation. Please also see the Q&A document we are maintaining on our website that responds to questions being raised by parent carers: Q&A. You can find more information about the Cabinet meeting and read the full proposal paper HERE.

Christmas Concert

You are all invited to Amesbury Methodist Church on Thursday 20 December for the Music Group’s Christmas Concert. Doors open at 10am for 1030. We will be enjoying mince pies and a hot drink after the performance to which are all welcome. The event finishes at midday.

Amesbury Methodist Church, 13 High Street Amesbury, Salisbury SP4 7ET. Park in the nearby pay and display car park.

Faith Walker

Members of South Wilts Mencap have been very saddened to hear of the death of their dear friend Mrs Faith Walker whilst in Salisbury District Hospital. It seems especially sad that in the last few months we have lost Hazel Cheesman, who did so much to help SWM to create the much loved Breakaway programme, and now Faith, whose great talents set the framework for our holiday and leisure programme that is so beloved by our members.

Faith served the local learning disability community in many ways:

  • she was an exceptional owner and manager of Willow House residential home in Amesbury for many years
  • people will remember her being part of our protests at the cuts in the College provision in 2006, which ended up with a petition delivered to Downing Street.
  • she served for a time as a Trustee
  • we must not forget she set up the very successful music group run by Frances in Amesbury that is still as popular today as it was when Faith started it.
  • and many people will remember the grand ball Faith organised at the Guildhall that helped celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2008: Faith knew how much “our guys” love to party!

Nigel Scott remembers that “SWM used to hold a Mencap “Fayre” on a Saturday morning once a year at the Guildhall and invite related charities to take a stand, publicise their work and sell what they could.  SWM had the biggest stall and also did the catering, selling coffee and cakes.  Faith was the organiser and charmed everyone to participate.”

But perhaps it is her time with Breakaway that was her most special contribution. Indeed it was Faith, together with the members, that came up with the name Breakaway.

When in the mid 1990s Hazel helped persuade the Mencap trustees to find a way of allowing our members to go on holidays to places of their choice, it was a struggle to work out how to do it. In the very beginning it almost failed, and Social Services stepped in to rescue one trip that otherwise would have had to be cancelled.

Jan Baylis took over for a while and showed us this kind of programme was what people really wanted, but it was when Faith offered to take on the running of the programme that the programme really took off and took the shape that it still has today.

Faith’s absolute respect for people with learning disabilities meant that the places we went on holidays were the places where people told us they wanted to go, and their wishes were always paramount. If people wanted to disco until 2 in the morning then that is what they did. It was Faith who built up the team of support workers and who wrote the first handbook of procedures to keep everyone safe, as well as leading almost all the holidays herself. Everyone who went on a trip will remember lovely, elegant Faith, always stylish, and always at the centre of all the fun. Catherine has built wonderfully on Faith’s legacy but we all know how much she was able to build on what Faith had established.

One more remarkable thing about Faith was the depth of skill and knowledge she had of how to support people. Her ability to understand just what was creating stress and anxiety in someone away from home and familiar surroundings, and exactly how to calm that person while making sure everyone else was having a great time, was skill of the highest order.

Faith has had poor health in recent years and so may not be known to younger members, but the legacy she created continues. She was much loved and will be missed.

Faith Walker’s funeral will be at Salisbury Crematorium on Thursday 6th December at 12:15.

Carers Support Wiltshire Live Webinars

Do you need help with managing your finances? Thinking of looking for a job but don’t know where to start?

This Carers Rights Day (30th November) Carers Support Wiltshire are running 2 webinars on their Facebook page. Join in to hear practical advice from their friends at Zurich.

Follow their facebook page and on Friday 30 November at 10am and 2pm you can watch the live webinars.