Countryside Mobility South West: a DPULO at its best

Towards the end of last year, I had the privilege of visiting Living Options Devon, one of the leading user-led organisations in the country, let alone the South West.

There are 3 things that struck me about why Living Options Devon is so successful in what it does:

  1. Working constructively in partnership with a range of different organisations, especially the local authority and other disability organisations in the area
  2. Solid delivery of the services and projects they deliver
  3. An entrepreneurial spirit that sees opportunities in every nook and cranny of their wide range of activities.

This is all brilliantly delivered by a number of fantastic staff (who kindly took some time to meet with me and share what they do) and brought together under the leadership of an excellent CEO, Diana Crump.

An example of the entrepreneurial spirit that Living Options has is the Countryside Mobility South West. This is a project created, managed and operated by Living Options Devon.

It aims to greatly increase the opportunities for mobility impaired, older people and their families to experience and enjoy the countryside of the South West through the provision of specialist mobility equipment. These include all-terrain “Tramper” scooters and accessible “Wheelyboats”.

As well as reflecting the sorts of things their members were asking for, Living Options Devon has also made the most of the fact it is a local, South West-based organisation. Wheelboats might not work too well in Luton!

Living Options has brought together a partnership of relevant organisations and secured funding to deliver this great project, turning it into an effective business. What’s more, they’re looking at how other partners across the country – especially user-led organisations – could set up a similar project, with support from them.

Below is relevant information about this opportunity, as well as details of the Countryside Mobility project and feedback from people who have used it.

It’s a reminder of what local user-led organisations can do and the opportunities they can make the most of.


Man walks into a column, no.32: Travel

It feels a little self-indulgent and dare I say smug to be writing this whilst chaos, anger and sadness reigns over my beloved home city (and elsewhere besides), but the simple fact remains that if I’m to stick to my New Year’s resolution of posting weekly then for this and the next two or three weeks I’ve no choice but to turn this column into something of… a travelogue. I know, I know, it’s painful for me too.

This is because tomorrow evening at about nine o’clock – all being well – I’ll be jetting off from Heathrow, bound for Sydney via Abu Dhabi, to enjoy what I’m sure will be a brilliant holiday Down Under. And as incredible as this sounds, I don’t think my mind will be much preoccupied with employee-owned mutuals, equity in public service delivery, or any of the other stuff I usually post about. Even the weird and wonderful history of Christianity. Probably.

My wife and I will be staying with my childhood friend Mike and his girlfriend Sabrina (what a perfect Aussie name, eh?) in a south-eastern suburb of Sydney called Coogee, in Mike’s flat overlooking Coogee Bay (which, incidentally, I’m amused to learn is named after the Aboriginal word for ‘smelly place’: koojah – the seaweed not the locals, although let’s wait and see). We’ll then be heading up to the north east of Australia for a couple of nights in Cairns, followed by another couple in the world’s oldest rainforest, the Daintree.

So how to make the account of my trip remotely readable and interesting? I don’t feel at all well-equipped having never, as far as I can remember, read a travel book in my life. And it’s not as if my voyage will be especially novel or action-packed: Sydney then Cairns is, I’m reliably informed, a well-trodden tourist trail. But don’t worry, I shan’t be pretending that I can, in the space of a little over a fortnight, offer any deep or meaningful insights into Aussie society, culture or politics either.

But what does that leave me with? Pictures? Video? Amusing anecdotes? Stories of my wife’s terrifying ordeals at the hands of Australia’s local wildlife (spiders a speciality)? Wine-sodden letters of love to my new favourite place in the world? Pffft.

Perhaps I’ll just have to fudge it and post about the books I’m reading whilst I’m away, which include The Social Animal by David Brooks, kindly lent to me by blogger-in-chief Rich (thanks again Rich, I shall do my best not to get smelly seaweed on it), a secondhand copy of an early Peter Ackroyd novel and a selection of stuff by some of my favourite authors including Cormac McCarthy, John Banville and Iain Banks. And (explaining my God caveat above) A History of Christianity is still halfway read on my iPad.

Well anyway, time will tell, but if you have any tips on good travel writing then I would be jolly grateful to hear them, and if you can’t bear three weeks of drivel from a different time zone, then you have my complete permission to ignore this column until normal service – such that it is – resumes.