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An Interview with PIP




1. What is your organisation called and what does it do?

We are PiP – which stands for Pursuing Independent Paths. We are a small, local charity based in W9 who support young people and adults with learning disabilities and autism to become independent, reach their potential and live life to the fullest. We do this through a range of sessions to help them build independence skills in different areas of their lives. For example, we run a Self-Advocacy group to support students to know their rights and have their voices heard, Employment sessions to help our students move into paid work, Fitness and Healthy Cooking as people with learning disabilities are more likely to suffer from weight related illnesses, Creative Writing and Performing Arts to support creative expression and mental wellbeing and Keeping Safe which helps students to navigate London and keep themselves safe. And that’s just half of it!

2. What are the biggest challenges your organisation faces – now and in the coming years?

Right now, COVID-19 means we are delivering differently which means we have had to pause our normal face to face services and deliver online sessions instead. This is a challenge as not only do we not have an amazing IT infrastructure but online learning isn’t suitable for all of our students. For some, it has been a revelation and they actually feel more comfortable engaging online. For about 25% of our students, it isn’t possible given their learning support needs.

The transition from lockdown to the ‘new normal’ will be tricky as we ease back into face to face delivery and consider how we can support our students and their families and carers during this uncertain time. We’ll be delivering some 1-1 support in the community and supporting students to feel confident travelling independently again. We’ve put together a short video of how we’ve been working during lockdown – check it out!

Economic uncertainty also unfairly and unequally affects those with disabilities in society. We know that coming out of lockdown will be tough for businesses and we also know that the over 50% of our students who want to work will find it even more challenging than usual to find suitable, supported employment.

Our next big challenge is demand. We have a waiting list of over 40 adults with learning disabilities who want to attend PiP. We also know that over the next few years, there will be over 200 young people with learning disabilities turning 18. This means they become ‘adults’ in social care terms and will leave school and a lot of the support services they know and rely on. Our long term goal is to move to bigger, more accessible, premises so we can expand our work to support more people with learning disabilities to become independent.

3. What is your organisation’s relationship with Paddington Central?

As neighbours, Paddington Central have been really supportive of our work particularly our social enterprise, Fruitful, a juice pop up stall. You might have seen us around at the local markets or being hosted by one of the local businesses. We hope to be back to see you soon! We also work together with local businesses on volunteering (real and virtual) and have some fun and impactful volunteering opportunities over the summer.

4. What impacts, if any, has your organisation’s relationship with Paddington Central had – in recent years and during the current crisis?

We were really fortunate to receive a generous donation from Paddington Central which is going someway to helping us upgrade our aforementioned archaic IT! We also really appreciate the advice we get from the Community team at Paddington Central. Knowing there is someone there who gets us and wants to help us during this time is really important for building meaningful corporate partnerships.

5. Please can you describe something that you’ve learnt or that has surprised you during the COVID-19 crisis, if anything?

Digital transformation can happen in small charities! And it can happen quickly when it needs to. We’ve been so impressed with our students for their resilience during this time. Managing change is not easy for so many of them and their commitment to continuing to engage with PiP and the feedback we have received from them and their families is why we do what we do. Their technology skills are also coming on leaps and bounds – many have mastered Zoom and worked out how to take themselves off of mute (not a skill that all staff have mastered :))

6. Thinking beyond financial donations, how can Paddington Central and the businesses based here best support you – now and longer term?

We’ve actually recently started a new relationship with Paddington Central business Zendesk. Despite it being lockdown, it’s been a brilliant start to our relationship. We’ve held Virtual Learn sessions to help staff learn more about working with people with learning disabilities, opportunities to meet our staff and students, Learn Along with our student sessions and regular volunteering with our Employment Group. In the longer term, we do want to take this virtual relationship face to face and would love to bring our students on workplace visits to Zendesk. And bring Fruitful too! We’ve had brilliant feedback from volunteers and our students about the new meaningful relationships we are all forming.

And this is exactly how we can work with other businesses too – improving the employability skills of our students is a priority and we would love to work with others on building relationships that we can maximise once lockdown eases.

Fruitful’s tagline is #goodforyougoodforme and this is exactly how we will feel about all of our work.

7. What message do you most want businesses at Paddington Central to remember from your blog?

We’d like Paddington Central businesses to remember our Fruitful tagline #goodforyougoodforme because it really sums up what we do and why working in partnership is so important for us and our students. Supporting adults with learning disabilities and autism to be less socially isolated and increase their employability skills is a fantastic (and fun) opportunity for any business as well as for our students. We can also support those that might not have experience of doing this before. We’d like businesses to remember that there are lots of benefits they can harness from working with adults with learning disabilities and autism. Volunteering and improving diversity in the workplace is a win for everyone.

8. What are your hopes for the future?

We know from experience that social care suffers in times of austerity and as mentioned, we know that those with disabilities can be unequally affected. So we hope for the future that we can continue to grow, to build relationships with our community and to continue to offer high quality services for young people and adults with learning disabilities and autism to become more independent. And we hope you’ll all join us on this journey to combat social inequality.

9. Is there anything else, not covered above, that you particularly want to highlight?

Click the link to find out about Fruitful PIP : Fruitful PIP Project

We’ve been running a series of student recommendations on our social media channels. Here are some of the highlights:

Danny’s PIP Tips: Danny’s Top Tips for making the most of lockdown

PIP’s Film Recommendations: Film Tips

Check out what we’ve been up to during lockdown and the impact we have here: PiP Video