Wave-length is a Community Interest Company that supports individuals seeking meaningful occupation and for those that design and deliver services or employment opportunities for individuals that face social challenges.
Ann Johnson started to plan Wave-length CIC in 2008: Having had a serious spinal injury that in 2002 resulted in me becoming a permanent wheelchair user in 2002 I began to reflect on the way that laws, society and people support and consider the needs of those that face challenges in their lives. My main focus was on the support provided in getting back to work and accessing services that were considered open to everyone. I was personally frustrated with the idea that the way we get people back into society was to design courses for them, widen traditional social supported activities and create support services that could inadvertently set limits on the individual. All have a place of course but what if the individual simply wants to get on with it at their own pace, wants to access all services with ease and even have a chance to shape this. So the goal for Wave-length is to work with individuals to help them to set the route to gain meaningful employment and work with organisations to create societies that support this.
At first I thought Wave-length would simply support people with a disability whether learning, mental health or physical to seek meaningful occupation but why disability? and who are the disabled? The definition is clear in the Equality Act 2010 ‘if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities’ but as with myself for the most part despite using a wheelchair I can get on with normal stuff and don’t face many challenges and this is likely to be the case for many people with disabilities. So they might not need lots of support but what if like me you gain a disability (around 78% of people with disabilities do) or what if life just disables you not because of a disability but because you commit an offence, you became an addict or because you develop a fixed mindset about your abilities, your long-term unemployed, your having to meet the needs of someone else or you have simply lost your way? Surely this can happen to all of us.
So why not ‘disable disability’ what if at Wave-length we re-think the meaning of the word disabled surely its people who feel they cannot move on because of a barrier placed by others, themselves or society. So we would best describe many of the people we assist as those facing social challenges in reaching their aims or changing their lives whether real or perceived. The people we support are not just those who have disabilities they are people at a Junction in their lives and who may have additional social challenges and/or seek some real value in their lives. They include individuals who are unemployed, ex-offenders, ex-addicts, past homeless, carers, veterans etc. and those with mental health, physical or learning disabilities. Through our Junction Box programme we support people to change their views, fixed mindsets and then begin to develop ideas with them to achieve sustained and valuable outcomes. This has not been an easy route for me and my team at Wave-length to deliver as often funders seek to see real change quickly, see people meeting tangible outcomes (off benefits) as the only solid outcome and often expect this within weeks and whilst we continue to meet targets to achieve this goal we as an organisation are equally thrilled by someone for weeks unable because of their anxiety to talk in a group then being able for the first time to make a comment or share an idea or a wish to seek some training to meet a goal –to us this is the start of the route to success. So whilst society is still not perfect we battle on!
So the answer is keep chipping away at making the difference we are always developing both as an organisation and for those we support. Our philosophy to keep things fresh, real and open encourages and challenges us to ensure that we keep support, information and our training real all of the time. In practice this means seeking feedback and comment from our own team, individuals and organisations and when we design an approach to the Junction Box, design a training session for a company or write a paper we stop and ask is it fresh, shows it as it is and how will it encourage open debate.
The work at Wave-length and the Junction Box is now delivered and supported through a mixture of paid staff, volunteers, people in the wider community and most important those who have been through our Junction Box programme.
Wave-length primarily works to support individuals who are at best described as being in a junction or pause in their lives, perhaps through lifestyle choices, health conditions or due to impact of personal or community life. We carry out this work through our Junction Box programme which through a peer2peer engagement encourages someone to set valued next steps in their lives to reach meaningful employment and then we collectively work together to help each other to achieve it. The programme works because it does not set the course, the pace or the outcomes; we let the attendees do this. The attendees agree what they want to achieve, they set the topics and the group helps each other to overcome challenges faced, this allows for true empowerment, it helps to highlight wider topics such as health and wellbeing alongside traditional employment skills and seeks to help people cope with change. There of course other benefits it helps people integrate with new friends and networks, brings them together with people who are equally driven to succeed and creates some hope to even achieve the little steps. The Junction Box programme designed and managed by Wave-length CIC can be found at www.junctionbox.org.uk or to understand something specific about the programme contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Taking our experiences, knowledge and learning to organisations
Through our work at the Junction Box we come across many people from so many different walks of life with so many experiences and ideas. We are not ashamed to say we use this information mainly through Wave-length’s work to help organisations, employers and service providers to understand the needs of their employees and customers. We help them understand how they as individuals or organisation can create improvements to their roles, policies and working practices so as to improve the service, broaden the appeal of the organisation and as a result meet and perhaps exceed overall business objectives. We do this through offering awareness sessions to staff, provide free resources through the Wave-length Well to organisations and by talking at events. To understand more about our services to organisations go to ‘What we do’
We don’t stop their we also work with national, regional and local partners to share our knowledge, offer solutions to challenges and of course in turn we learn from them so as to bring back fresh ideas to our organisational objectives in supporting others. We are active members and partners with national organisations including the Recovery Careers Service, Disability Action Alliance, DWP Employment Stakeholders and regional and local including ACAS West Midland, several Business Boards and Mental Health Groups. To understand the activities and partners we are involved in go either to the Junction Box page at www.junctionbox.org.uk follow our news page on the Wave-length website or sign up to our newsletter below.
Whilst Wave-length runs and meets its objectives through the energy and enthusiasm of its staff and volunteers but it is clear we would not exist if not for our funders, our sponsor TTC Group and through the ongoing support of others in the wider community from that of our patron Benjamin Zephaniah to local authorities, business networks and other community and voluntary groups – thank you.
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