Impact Initiatives charity supporting people living in Sussex to live healthy & fulfilling lives

Impact Initiatives Workability user

Impact Initiatives founded to help Sussex residents reach their potential

Sussex Charity Impact Initiatives was founded over 40 years ago and has, CEO Caroline Ridley tells me, supported the people of Sussex to reach their potential and live healthy and fulfilling lives ever since.

“‘Nothing quite like this has ever happened before’ were the words of the then Chair of the County Council as he addressed a conference at the University of Sussex in September 1977.” Caroline explains.

“The reason for this conference was to explore the idea of creating a charitable body that Sussex could truly call its own through the participation and cooperation of different churches, voluntary organisations and the local councils.

“In the collaborative world we work in today it is hard to believe that those bodies coming together at that time was a first. The organisation that was borne out of that conference to ‘fill the gaps’ and ‘help the needy and dispossessed’ (not words we would now use) – remains today as Impact Initiatives.”

Now working as an independent charity, Impact Initiatives supports over 8,000 people each year, through a team of over 90 staff who are in turn supported by a team of volunteers. The charity
works with people of all ages across Sussex, the services are varied with a common thread of helping people to live healthy and fulfilling lives and reach their potential.

Supporting people with disabilities into employment for over 25 years

One of a number of services aimed at Adults and Older People the Workability scheme has, Caroline Ridley explains, an expert team helping people with disabilities and carers to identify their
specific skills and ambitions and match these to employment opportunities.

“They then help people through the job search, application and interview processes and into employment that is realistic, focussed on their abilities, enjoyable and a positive experience.”

“They told me I would never walk again but Heather at Workability had faith in me, not only that I would walk again but that I could work again” Workability user.

Additionally, Caroline Ridley says, “Impact’s West Sussex Advocacy services have given people avoice since 1994 when the Grayling Well Hospital (now one of Chichester’s newer housing developments) closed, moving its long-term residents into their own homes.

“We worked with 21 adults many of who had lived in the hospital for many years to ensure their voices were heard and they had choice in where they moved on to.” Since that time Impact Initiatives has ensured that 1,000s of people with disabilities have had a voice in what matters tothem including where they live, the support they receive and how they live as parents.

The focus is on empowering and enabling people tospeak up and live the lives they choose. Information on Advocacy referrals can be found on Impact Initiatives website.

Developing services to increase skills and, reduce loneliness and isolation

Caroline Ridley tells me that over the years, Impact Initiatives has continually developed services as theneeds of local people have changed and this was particularly apparent over the last few years when services had to be quickly developed through the Covid pandemic.

Key being the ability to, “Provide and teach people how to use IT so they could maintain contact with [us], other support and their friends and family. Isolation was a huge issue for many and for more so for many people with disabilities as this was compounded by additional vulnerabilities, issues with getting out and about and less people being able to visit them.”

This allowed Impact’s teams to keep in touch online and ensure vital support was in place and also to help groups set up online peer social groups, so they could support and give each other company. Some of these groups including the Self-Advocacy groups for people with Autism, continue online as they became a key part of people’s lives and continue to reduce loneliness and isolation.

Impact’s Aspie Trainers offer training sessions to improve services for people with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs); offering a range of training sessions to suit the needs of any team, organisation or individual working with, supporting or working alongside autistic individuals. During Covid, the Impact Initiatives team quickly redesigned theirtraining, so this could be delivered online.

Other services include Ageing Well – a programme of services and activities for those aged 50+ living in Brighton and Hove, including support and information for people living with dementia, and Food Services working to make surethat nobody in Brighton and Hove has to go without food.

45 years on from that original conference Impact continue to ‘fill the gaps’

Caroline says, “We are now very excited tobring one of our longstanding Brighton based services to West Sussex. Our Stopover supported housing service for young women currently provides a home and expert support for 45 young women across nine houses, two of these for young women and their babies. The service is unique providing a pathway from 24-hour support to just an hour a week as young women move through our houses and on to living independently.

“We have a track record of successfully supporting the most vulnerable and troubled young women through giving them a home where they feel safe, often for the first time in their lives and consistent expert support based on understanding the trauma they have experienced.”

“Stopover is the first place I have lived where I feel I am safe and belong. They have taught me it is OK to cry and be angry and helped me managed how I feel. I kicked against all the rules they
have at first but now I am the one telling girls who move in that the rules are there to keep us all safe and because they care about us”.

Over the last year Impact Initiatives has worked with the West Sussex County Council (WSCC) Leaving Care Team and will be opening its first house in West Sussex later this month with four young women already waiting to move in.

“We are looking forward to welcoming them and helping them tomake our house into their home and continuing to work towards our aim for Sussex people of all ages to reach their potential whilst living healthy and fulfilling lives.”

After school play for children along with a safespace for young people

In addition to Stopover, other services for Children and Young People include Whitehawk After School Project (WASP), which provides an Ofsted registered after school club and holiday playschemes at City Academy, Whitehawk where the skilled team ensure the club is nurturing, inclusive and fun.

There is also a Young People’s Centre (YPC)in Brighton – a safe space where the Impact  Initiatives team works alongside other organisations to provide aone-to-one and group sessions.

Impact Initiatives are funded through a range of grants anddonations, if you would like to find out moreabout the charity’s work or are able to support through a donation or by running a fundraising event.

Contact: Impact Initiatives, 19 Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XA. Tel: 01273 322 940 or visit www.impact-initiatives.org.uk

Sussex Local Magazine Charity and Community article by Lynn Smith

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