Yesterday we launched a 10 week long fundraising campaign called “Perfect 10” to mark 10 years since DanceSyndrome was founded by Jen Blackwell.
In the current economic climate we are faced with increased pressure on our resources. Competition for funding is fierce and the major funding that we have had in recent years is coming to an end. We are now relying on the generous support of individuals and businesses to carry out our vital work.
There are lots of reasons why small charities need your support at this time, but in keeping with our “Perfect 10” theme, we wanted to give you 10 key reasons why we deserve your support.
If you agree that the work that we are doing is vital, then please tell people about our work, share on social media and donate if you can!
1. There is a genuine need for our work
In times of austerity, people with learning disabilities are becoming increasingly dependent on the third sector for support and budgets to support them are being drastically cut.
• There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK.
• 85% of young learning disabled adults (18-34 year olds) feel lonely.
• Mental health problems amongst adults with a learning disability are double the rate in the general population (40%).
• Average life expectancy of women with a learning disability is 18 years shorter than the general population; for men with a learning disability it is 14 years shorter than the general population
• 17% of all adults with a learning disability in England are in paid work (47% of adults with any type of disability are in paid work and 74% of adults in the general population in England are in paid work)
DanceSyndrome’s work addresses all of these issues. Our workshops help people with their physical and mental wellbeing but research conducted with our participants also suggests that they also gain life skills, communications skills and transferrable employability skills.
2. Our work is life changing
Involvement with DanceSyndrome can be truly life changing. Our participants report significant improvements to their mental health, physical wellbeing and, perhaps most importantly, their happiness!
Our research with current participants shows:
100% feel happier since joining DanceSyndrome
85% say their confidence has increased since joining DanceSyndrome
100% feel better about their life and future since joining DanceSyndrome
85% say their self-esteem has improved since joining DanceSyndrome
100% enjoyed their involvement with DanceSyndrome
Jen and Toni’s story shows just how life changing our work can be.
3. We encourage people with learning disabilities to be leaders
DanceSyndrome’s Dance By Example training is a unique training course that empowers people with or without learning disabilities to become a community dance workshop leader. Participants learn a range of leadership skills, many of which are transferrable, and then they are given the chance to work shadow existing leaders and gain experience of delivering workshops themselves. The course is offered at different ability levels, with a Level 1 qualification currently available and a Level 2 qualification coming soon!
People with learning disabilities rarely get the opportunity to be visible, inspiring leaders and this course is an accessible way of teaching people really valuable life skills, as explained in this video about Dance Leader David Corr.
4. Our co-delivery model is unique
All DanceSyndrome activities are co-led by a Dance Leader with a learning disability who is supported by a professional Dance Artist. The workshop teams work together to develop ideas and activities for their workshops, which they then deliver as a team. This ensures high quality dance provision that is led by a person with a learning disability in a visible leadership role. Our Dance Leaders are inspiring leaders who are excellent role models for other individuals with learning disabilities who aspire to follow their dreams and live a life of their choosing.
This model is something that isn’t common in other organisations, but is consistent in all aspects of the work that DanceSyndrome does, not just in workshops but in training courses, performance and outreach work. Here is a great example of Jen and Peter, supported by Donna, leading a dance activity at the North West Regional Forum conference for self advocates with learning disabilities.
5. We provide opportunities not offered anywhere else
DanceSyndrome strives to give individuals of all abilities access to opportunities that they wouldn’t get elsewhere. We do this by offering a supportive environment and listening to our dancers’ ideas. If someone has a dream that they want to pursue, we take it seriously and consider the logistics of making it happen. Our dancers have been supported to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe (in both 2017 and 2018), at U.Dance festival, to open awards ceremonies including the national Learning Disability and Autism awards, to choreograph an Arts Council funded project, to participate in a photo shoot with a professional dance photographer, to be filmed for prime time TV, to have their stories published in a book, to perform at the House of Lords and even to audition for Britain’s Got Talent!
6. We empower people
All participants with DanceSyndrome are empowered through improved life skills and increased confidence, but for some participants this goes even further. As well as participation and performance opportunities, DanceSyndrome empowers people with learning disabilities to genuinely influence the future of the charity. Everyone’s opinion is valued and respected. We have people with learning disabilities sitting on our Board of Directors and we have the “Select Team”, which is made up of people with learning disabilities and their families and carers. The Select Team meets to discuss their experiences with DanceSyndrome, what they like and what can be improved, as well as what they would like to do in the future. The discussions from this meeting are fed back to the admin staff and Trustees and change in the organisation is driven by the people who participate in our activities. Everyone at DanceSyndrome is empowered by the understanding that they are valued, respected and listened to.
7. We are truly inclusive
Many organisations claim to be inclusive because they offer services that can accessed by people with disabilities but at DanceSyndrome we are truly inclusive, with people with and without disabilities working collaboratively, learning from each other and treating each other as equals.
Everyone is empowered in a completely supportive environment where everyone’s opinion is respected and everyone is encouraged to strive to achieve their goals, regardless of their disability, age, gender, sexuality, race or religion. This approach has been so successful that we now offer a training course called “Inclusive Approaches” which gives people from a range of professional backgrounds the skills needed to fully understand inclusion and create inclusive environments.
The perfect example of our inclusive approach is David and Jessica’s recent success in the U.Dance festival. Both dancers happen to have Down’s syndrome, but were able to fully participate in a prestigious mainstream festival thanks to the support of our Dance Artists, who have recognised and nurtured their abilities in an inclusive environment. Not only did they participate, but they were chosen to represent the whole of the North West at the London festival! Their performance was beautiful.
8. The skills people learn with us are transferrable
DanceSyndrome isn’t just about learning skills related to dance. The leadership and life skills that our participants learn in our sessions can be used in many other aspects of life.
These statistics, which are reported by our current participants, show the extent to which transferrable skills are learnt in DanceSyndrome workshops:
100% have gained team working skills
94% gained skills to use at home, college or work
76% gained self management skills
Pauline’s story is a great example of the power of our work in developing transferrable skills and why they are so important.
9. We are changing perceptions of disability
Part of DanceSyndrome’s mission is to change the way people think about disability. We want to refocus attention on the things that people with disabilities are able to do, instead of how their disability limits them. Once people change to an ability, rather than disability, focus then opportunities for people with disabilities become more readily available.
We try to show people’s strengths and talents in all aspects of our work, but this video “Here I am” is one of our favourites!
10. We’re an award winning charity
Over the last 4 years we have won many awards and accolades recognising the importance of our work. It’s always great to get such wonderful recognition and it really helps us to raise awareness of our work, but the main reason why these awards are so important to us is because they really make a significant difference to our Dance Leaders’ confidence, self esteem and belief that they can achieve anything they want to in life with the right support.
Here Jen speaks about how she felt when she won the Inspirational Woman of the Year Award at the 2015 EVAs: