A big thank you to everyone who has supported Reading Mencap in 2017. It has been a great year - here's a quick look back at some of the highlights.
The year started with the good news that Reading Mencap is Safe & Sound – we achieved a prestigious new quality award from RVA, which proves we’re well governed. A big thank you to our Chair Leslie Macdonald for all the hard work she put in to ensure our success.
Love was in the air during the shortest month with members of our ME Day Activity Service and clubs celebrating Valentine’s Day by making heart shaped crafts.
In February, we also asked people what they thought about us. Respondents described us as ‘inclusive, engaging and innovative,’ ‘helpful, supportive and reliable’ and ‘helping people who wouldn’t otherwise get support from others’.
As thoughts turned to spring marathon efforts were made on behalf of Reading Mencap. Two of our members ran in the Green Park 3km Challenge and our trustee, Kim Norris completed the Reading Half Marathon. Andrew, who attends Gateway Club generously donated his sponsorship of £670 for his Green Park run so that club members could enjoy a boat trip on the Thames.
April was music to our ears as the Are You Listening? Festival raised an Reading Mencap. More than 1,500 people attended the festival, which was supported by 70 volunteers. The critically acclaimed festival won Event of the Year at the inaugural Alt Reading Awards. Next year’s festival is taking place on Saturday 28 April.
April also saw Reading Borough Council introduce a new charging policy, which meant many of the people who use our services faced significantly higher bills for their contribution towards their social care services than ever before.
Our team of Family Advisers have been working hard to help our members and their families achieve a fair assessment of their ability to pay and challenge social care assessments to ensure their loved-one can continue to access activities in the community. Through diligent and painstaking work, they have had significant success in reducing charges for individuals.
A super £2,000 was raised at our open afternoon held at one of Reading’s hidden treasures, the Harris Garden. Reading Mayor Cllr Mohammed Ayub opened the event, which attracted more than 500 guests, who were able to browse stalls, stroll around the beautiful gardens and visit the walled garden, which is usually closed to the public. The event surpassed all our expectations!
We love to sing at Reading Mencap and the community choir is one of our most popular activities. This year’s fantastic performance was at Park United Reform Church, where despite the heat, the choir put on a show full of energy and enthusiasm with songs including 'My Girl', 'Beautiful' and 'Love My Life'. A special thank you to Choir Leader Rhona Millar.
It was a double celebration at our AGM with awards to mark the amazing contribution made by our committed volunteers and a special cake to commemorate a remarkable milestone – our 55th anniversary.
Awards were presented for Volunteer of the Year, Best Newcomer, You’re a Star and Fundraiser of the Year.
The special Wendy Allen Award for Volunteer of the Year was won by Kay Smith for her commitment, hard work and ‘can do’ attitude.
Champion fundraiser Lee Duff, who raised an impressive £2,475 by completing the tough Velothon Wales cycling challenge, was this year’s Fundraiser of the Year.
The new Reading Mencap Ambassadors performed the opening ceremony for our summer fair. These five hardworking members will help with campaigning, fundraising and spreading the word in the community about Reading Mencap. The fair was a great success with crafts including colourful ceramics, fluffy pom-poms and decorative tins made by members of Reading Mencap on sale.
Splat a Rat brought out everyone’s competitive instinct – it’s a lot harder than it looks!
Team Reading Mencap did us proud at Parallel London – an inclusive fun run for all ages and abilities - with our valiant fundraisers running #SidebySide to the finish line with their siblings. Parallel London is an amazing event and we’re planning to enter a team again in 2018.
Our Family Health Adviser Carl Borges has been taking the Getting It Right in Reading message to GP surgeries to talk to GPs and practice staff about how taking a few simple steps, such as offering longer appointment times, sending out easy read letters and having understanding receptionists make all the difference to patients with a learning disability. He has also been working one-to-one with individual clients and promoting the importance of having a health passport.
October brought the news that Universal Credit, a new benefit for people aged 16 and 64, would be introduced in Reading Borough in December 2017. People already claiming benefits will start to switch over to Universal Credit between February and April 2018. Our Family Advisers are busy preparing to support local people with a learning disability who will need help when the benefit is introduced.
Things also got very spooky at Reading Mencap with Halloween parties held by the ME service and Gateway Club. The costumes were fangtastic!
Reading Mayor Cllr Rose Williams looked resplendent in red when she attended our Christmas Fair. It was a cracking event, which raised an impressive £687!
Members of our new Performing Arts Club put on an amazing show with their debut production, The Lost Robin. Animals preparing for their winter hibernation provided the inspiration with a little robin at the heart of the story. Cast members took on the characters of rabbits, hedgehogs and geese – all played with aplomb!
The festive month started with our popular Christmas disco and this year didn’t disappoint! It was a fun-filled night as everyone danced the night away. Family and friend joined members, staff and volunteers and it was lovely to see old faces as well as new friends join the party.
Members of our ME Day Activity Service and our clubs have been busy getting ready for the big day by baking biscuits and mince pies, making crafts and tabletop decorations and generally getting in the festive spirit.
Happy Christmas everyone!
We look forward to continuing to support children and adults with a learning disability and their families in 2018.