Clackmannanshire Disability Awareness Group
In 2010, Clackmannanshire Disability Awareness Group (DAG) sought support from Sus It Out Plus to help them develop their profile, both in print and online, and more generally to become a sustainable organisation. Sus it Out Plus supported DAG from August 2010 up until early 2012.
DAG seeks to raise awareness of the issues that people with disabilities experience in their day-to-day lives and champion the rights of and represent disabled people. The group's focus is on ensuring that people with disabilities are treated equally and have an equal say in decisions that affect them.
In addition, the group also has an important self-support function, caring for each other and providing a safe space for people to discuss events that have occurred and plan activities to further their objectives.
DAG's overall objectives are to:
- provide support and work with people to make community life more accessible;
- help people to live with dignity and independence;
- raise awareness of the issues people living with disabilities face;
- champion the rights of and represent disabled people; and
- be self-sustaining.
The group has been running for more than ten years and, at the time of being supported by Sus it Out Plus, had a membership of between twelve and fifteen individuals.
Growth and development
As with all groups supported by Sus It Out Plus, Clackmannanshire DAG received a workshop session to take stock and establish priorities, as well as the development of an action plan to follow up on this. The group had also received the £1,500 budget that formed part of the support package.
Some of this funding was used to develop a quarterly newsletter, Out and About, with group members being “roving reporters” who find out more about all things do to with access issues for people with disabilities. These have been distributed in local libraries, sent to local Councillors and uploaded online.
In addition, the funding helped to develop a website. A domain name was secured and development work to get the website up and running was undertaken. The resulting easy-to-use website can be viewed at www.clacksdag.org.uk.
The support and resulting action plan spurred the group on its continuation and further development of activities, including its role providing the bi-monthly Access Panel for Clackmannanshire. These panels operate in every local authority in Scotland (supported by the Scottish Disability Equality Forum - SDEF), and work for better access for disabled people in local communities. The Access Panel is made up of local volunteers, including people with a disability, carers and people with a genuine interest in better access for people with a disability in their community.
The group also continued to take forward an action research project as part of the Learning Through Doing programme, supported by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC). This focussed on identifying the enablers and barriers for people with disabilities being able to get out and enjoy nature.
DAG furthermore secured funding from the BIG Lottery Fund's Awards for All Programme for a project called Walks for All in Clackmannanshire. The project has focussed on creating a series of walking/access maps which will enable people to make informed choices about where they can go, how they can get there and what they will find when they get there (e.g. the flora and fauna but also facilities such as toilets, seats en route, good viewpoints, nearby cafes, public transport, etc).
The Big Lottery funding enabled the group to purchase a camera and for members of the group to visit different places throughout the area, to take photographs and to pull together information on things like where to go, where to park, etc. The project has been recently completed and a pack of twelve maps highlighting accessible local walks will shortly be freely available for people to access in local libraries and will be put on the group‟s website (when ready).
Lastly, the group was successful in receiving funding from the BIG Lottery Fund's Community Spaces Scotland Programme to develop a business plan for the redevelopment of the Sunken Gardens within Gartmorn Dam Country Park. Over the years it has become overgrown and unkempt, and the group has used the funding to work with a design team to develop a plan for its redevelopment, with the aim of transforming it into an easily accessible and visually attractive place to visit.
DAG has engaged in a range of partnership working in addition to the above Clackmannanshire Access Panel work. For instance, the group has been working with other local groups Reach Out with Arts in Mind and BTCV as part of its BIG Lottery Community Spaces application. It continues to be a member of the NHS Forth Valley Public Partnership Forum, giving the group a direct route to influencing the services that the NHS provides locally. DAG is also part of a stakeholder group that feeds into the local Community Planning Partnership, Clackmannashire Alliance.
DAG hoped that Sus It Out Plus would provide capacity building support to help them to formulate a clear action plan. By bringing the group together to reflect on where it was at and where it wanted to be, the support has acted as a catalyst for much of the above growth and development. The funding was considered particularly helpful, as the group has been reliant on time-limited project related funding.
The action plan has continued to give focus and direction to the group, with many of the actions being implemented. Further, the regular newsletters have been a powerful way to spread the word more widely about what the group has achieved.
The confidence that was previously reported as a key benefit has been sustained – with the group continuing to work as a committed group of members, taking the lead role in strategic groups and submitting successful funding applications.
Since being supported by Sus it Out Plus, the range of partnership working undertaken by the group has resulted in an increased profile for Clackmannanshire DAG. The group is taken more seriously by key players in the area e.g. local authority, community planning, etc, and is more than ever being recognised for the work it does.
Lessons and Learning
Finance was CDAG’s main challenge. This remains the case but the group have managed to tap into some other funding sources including support from the Scottish Disability Equality Forum and Big Lottery.
However, funding secured has tended to be linked to project activity and as such has been time-limited in nature. Funding to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the group is an ongoing hurdle, though the group has a committed membership with passion and drive to overcome any obstacles or difficulties.
Read more about Sus it Out Plus and the wider Stronger Communities programme here.