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North Yorkshire Disability Forum Chair's Annual Report 2021

For a printable copy of this report, please email HASConsultation@northyorks.gov.uk 

North Yorkshire Disability Forum

Annual report from the Chairperson of the Forum

June 2021

 

Overview of the year: 2020/21

Where to start?  This has certainly been a challenging year – we’ve heard the phrase ‘unprecedented times’ a lot over the last 14 months, and we will all have had our own personal experience of the pandemic. As disabled people, many of us will have had additional challenges to deal with.

But despite all this, even under lockdowns, we have continued to come together, to share, raise issues and work on solutions collectively.  I am very proud of the members of North Yorkshire Disability Forum and all the local forums – you have achieved so much and it is testament to your resilience and your commitment to making things better for disabled people.

Our first challenge was being able to meet at all, because we couldn’t travel and meet in person – the way we’d always done things.  But we adapted, innovated and persevered in the teeth of technical issues and digital barriers, and now we can navigate online meetings with ease (well, most of the time!).  With just a couple of weeks’ notice, we managed to turn our March 2020 quarterly meeting into an online one, and against the odds it went ahead. 

We do have to recognise that online meetings don’t work for some of our members, particularly our Deaf members, and we will need to think about how we meet in future – maybe a mix of in-person and online.  There are also barriers to do with access to devices, internet connection and the cost of data.

North Yorkshire Disability Forum members did great work collating and raising issues about Covid on behalf of members, and in May 2020, we had our first online Covid Q&A with Richard Webb, Corporate Director Health and Adult Services, NYCC.

This was a very useful session, both for us and Richard, and these Q&As have continued regularly since then, with representatives of other forums joining us – North Yorkshire Learning Disability Partnership Board, Harrogate Mental Health Service Users Involvement Group and Northallerton over 50s Forum.  We have had great feedback about how useful these sessions are, and they are now moving onto to topics other than Covid. Thank you to everyone for your work in collating questions for Richard and his colleagues. 

The next Chair may wish to consider asking Richard if he has questions that he would like to pose to the joint Forums.

Other notable successes:

  • NYDF making connections with other Disability User-led Organisations: Accessible Calderdale and Darlington Association on Disability.  These relationships, if nurtured, should provide very valuable learning and sharing opportunities.
  • Deciding on and beginning our campaigns for this year, under very difficult circumstances: accessible transport and hearing loops. There is also our ongoing work on Changing Places, reaching out to local councils to draw attention to the new Government funding.
  • Ripon Disability Forum became a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation)  – congratulations, it is a lot of hard work so well done everyone involved.  This means three local disability forums are now independently constituted – well done to everyone.
  • Local advocacy and campaigning picked up pace towards the end of 2020 and in 2021 as we got more used to this new way of working, including transport and planning issues, access for people with sensory impairment, the impact of pavement cafes on disabled people, highways issues working with the NYCC Highways Customer Contact Officers.
  • Several forums have connected with other disability/condition groups to grow their networks and increase representation of diverse conditions.
  • We have contributed to a number of local and national consultations, Census 2021 engagement, feedback on council services, case studies and press conferences for the county council.
  • We took part in a focus group for the King’s Fund on leadership in social care, contributing to a report published in February 2021.
  • We contributed to a recruitment campaign for social care support workers.
  • Some forum members, notably Nick and Sandra from HDDF, have been involved in the ‘Keeping in Touch’ task group which has helped to advise NYCC on interpreting the care home visiting guidance. The group made 17 recommendations which have been accepted and included in the guidance people living in care homes and Nick has spoken on this issue on local news and social media as well as the KIT group – fantastic work, Nick, we are proud of you.
  • We joined our voices with other forums for International Day of People with Disabilities, 3rd December, to create a wonderful celebration: International Day of People with Disabilities | North Yorkshire Partnerships (nypartnerships.org.uk)

I know that this list won’t have captured all of the work we have done.  We have achieved so much.  I am proud to have been the Chair of North Yorkshire Disability Forum for the last four years and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Thoughts for the next Chair / for NYDF:

Taking over the Chair half-way through a meeting without any preparation is literally being thrown in at the deep end! However, with the amazing support and prompts from Shanna, you will survive your first meeting.

As time goes on and you relax into the job you will quickly learn the difficult skill of knowing when and how to ‘politely’ interrupt discussions.

The main advice I give to the new Chair is to ENJOY!

You won’t be alone with Shanna by your side, and I will always be available to offer as much help and discussion as the new Chair may need.

 

Phil Dodson

Chair, North Yorkshire Disability Forum

7th June 2021