Connect in the North

Vicky Hiles, Chair of Connect in the North tells us about the organisation.

Describe Connect in the North in a paragraph.
Connect in the North is a charity led by people with learning difficulties. We want people with learning difficulties to have the same opportunities and power in their lives and the world as anyone else. We run training and projects to change things for the better.

What is the background to Connect in the North?
Connect in the North has been around since 1995. We have changed a lot over the years.

In 2008 people with learning difficulties took control of Connect in the North. Now all our members and all our directors (trustees) are people with learning difficulties. Every year we run at least two events for members; one of these is the Annual General Meeting, which is combined with our Christmas party.

Over the years we have run different projects in which people with learning difficulties have taken a lead, for example:

• Making Your Days Better was a project that involved people with learning difficulties visiting alternatives to day services around the country. They then wrote about what they’d learnt in a resource published by Pavilion.

• Connect Works 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.

What services do you provide / which projects do you deliver?
We are funded to do work to make services more person centred. This work falls into two broad areas:

1. Working with individual people with learning difficulties, supporting them to plan for the future and make big changes in their lives. This is usually about moving house but can also be about finding work or other things to do after leaving school or college (for example).

2. Providing free training in person centred thinking and approaches. This is only free to Leeds family carers and people working supporting people with learning difficulties in Leeds.

Using funding from charitable trusts we run free training for people with learning difficulties including Streetwise, Workwise and Webwise.

We also provide training that we charge for, this includes:

• Recruit Right – involving people with learning difficulties in staff recruitment

• Fresh approaches to autism and challenging behaviour

• Making Meetings More Effective

• Looking Out to Get In – supporting people with learning difficulties to make friends and be active citizens

Who is on the team? (staff and volunteers)
Board of Directors

  • Vicky Hiles (Chair)
  • Daniel Froment (Treasurer)
  • Peter Lomas

Paid Staff

  • Cathy Wintersgill | Director
  • Sarah Wheatley | Trainer

What is the best thing about your role?
Having fun in office and working as a team; doing training and working with Cathy and Sarah.

What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Getting funding to keep us going.

If you had a super-power what would it be and why?
I would be able to get people with learning difficulties paid work. More organisations should employ people with learning difficulties.

If you could give someone you know an award, who would it be and why would they deserve it?
My mum for the brilliant cakes she makes. Cathy and Sarah for all their hard work at Connect in the North.


July 2014
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