As part of York’s Culture Strategy, Make It York, York CVS, and City of York Council have come together to award funding of more than £60,000 to nineteen social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation, and mental ill-health across the city.
The grants, which were made available via the Better Care Fund and Ways to Wellbeing, were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation, and social distancing. This series of case studies profiles each of the 2021 recipients:
One of the projects which has been supported by the grants was ‘Where’s Wilber?’, a Ways to Wellbeing project from the Wilberforce Trust.
The Wilberforce Trust is an organisation that supports those in York, and further across North Yorkshire, with visual and hearing impairments through a variety of initiatives. One of these is ‘Club Wilber’, a local group for the families of children with visual impairments. This group runs adapted activities, events and trips, allowing visually impaired children and their siblings to safely experience recreational activities in an inclusive environment. The group also connects parents of visually impaired children, creating a supportive network within the York community.
The ‘Where’s Wilber’ project grows on this – research by the Wilberforce Trust showed that children with disabilities have been particularly struggling with their mental wellbeing, with 93% of families saying that Covid had a negative impact on their children’s access to social experiences and peer support. This is due to the vulnerability of those with disabilities, meaning they needed to isolate even after watching their peers return to pre-lockdown life.
With few community initiatives helping this these young people, the Wilberforce Trust were able to use the provision of online and electronic resources to create a wide range of appropriate activities as part of ‘Club Wilber’, that these children could enjoy to reduce their mental stress.
17 new activities were created to boost the mindset of the children involved, including interactive storytelling, relaxation workshops, theatre workshops with York Theatre Royal, and a range of interactive activities to take part at home such as Lego creation, baking and creating bird feeders.
105 children took part in these activities, 50 of whom were visually impaired.
86% of families from a recent impact report felt that this project had increased the variety of activities they have access to and 79% reported that they had greater access to more inclusive activities which include both visually impaired and sighted children.
Comments from participants include:
“Amazing people that run an amazing club giving families the opportunity to participate and enjoy activities together.”
“It is a big part of our lives and we rely on them for information about how to support our daughter.”
“My daughter’s brother was amazed when he saw the other children with canes – like his sister; it has been great for him to see and understand VI a little more and to meet other siblings and make friends.”
Pip Myring, Club Wilber Co-ordinator, says “The difference the extra hours have made to the service and the impact this has had on the children’s mental health and well-being has been phenomenal. The new sessions we can now provide for them have seen them flourish and the grant has made all this possible.”