Podcast Episode: Glasgow Disability Alliance
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MM - Michael McEwan
BS - Brian Scott
MM Okay now on Iriss.fm, I’m here in the Glasgow Disability Alliance office and I’m speaking to Brian Scott. Now Brian Scott is the Development Manager for the Alliance so thanks Brian…
BS - Hi.
Male voice - …for taking the time out to speak to us. So first of all give us a quick over view and a quick insight into what is Glasgow Disability Alliance?
BS Okay, I’ll try keep it quick…
BS Glasgow Disability Alliance is a disabled person’s organisation, so it’s run by, for disabled people and we are led by disabled people. We are managed by a board of directors who’re all disabled people and in fact we’re the biggest disabled person’s organisation in the country. At the moment we have about three and a half thousand members and they’re open to anyone to join who identifies themselves as a disabled person. We are what’s described as an organisation as pan-disability, so we have people with physical impairment, people with learning disabilities, people with mental health issues, people with long term conditions essentially anybody who identifies themselves as a disabled person is free to join Glasgow Disability Alliance. As far as what we do, two main things that we do Michael, we offer free accessible learning and training programs for disabled people and that’s our kind of bread and butter so we provide a range of courses and workshops and learning opportunities for disabled people and the other thing we do is, we’re a campaigning organisation. We campaign on issues which affect disabled people to try and improve the lives for disabled people cos we strongly believe that the best people to identify solutions to the problems that disabled people face are disabled people themselves. It’s a long interesting history of how Glasgow Disability Alliance got to the point where it’s got to now, where we have this big membership but it started of this small group of people and the small group were very committed, active people…disabled people who basically felt fed up with the fact that there was such a lack of provision and services for them in the city and in particular that there was no real opportunities for disabled people to get together and share their experiences and to change and influence how people…likes of for example, the NHS or Glasgow City Council or Scottish Government, how they actually engage with and dealt with disabled people so over time that has built up as we’ve had you know, more members but I have to stress it’s been down to some very committed individuals and people who have been very determined to secure funding and finances to allow us to do the kind of things that we do.
MM How long have the alliance been running for then?
BS Really this has been going on since 2006 and this is our 10th year but it’s very much, you know, grown from a small kind of grass roots organisation if you like as I said you know with that a small handful of very active, very committed people. At one point we maybe went up to a kind of membership of about 40 or 50 people who were coming to our learning and training courses and as I say it’s grown and grown. A lot of it through word of mouth to a point now where we’re at a kind of membership is up in the sort of 3 and a half thousand mark and that’s both individual disabled people and also partner organisations cos we work very closely with a range of organisations in the city.
MM So yeah, I think you’ve answered my next question. How many members have you got?
BS Well as I say the membership is around and over is round about 3 and a half thousand and the majority of that will be individual disabled people and I should say as well Michael although we’re a Glasgow Disability Alliance and we’re based here in the East End of Glasgow we cover Glasgow and we cover adjoining areas so we do have members in places like East Renfrewshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire those kind of areas. Anybody’s free to join Glasgow Disability Alliance. The services that we provide, the free accessible learning and training courses for example, they all take place within Glasgow and we do offer transport, we offer taxis for people who need taxis to get to and from our learning training courses but we are open to people who come from outside the city, if they can get in to Glasgow then we can provide transport within Glasgow so that they can take part in our courses and our training programs or our events.
MM Somebody phoned the Alliance say from up North, would you point them in a direction of an organisation that’s based kind of like up there?
BS Yeah we do actually have, it’s a very good question, Michael, we do have members from you know from far afield, we do have members in places like Tayside and the Highland and so on but those members are really only members of Glasgow Disability Alliance just for information purposes so they will get copies of our regular newsletters and things like that and that might be all that they want in terms of just getting up to keeping up to date with changes to say Welfare benefits or policy but you’re absolutely right what we would encourage people to do who are disabled people who are some distance away from Glasgow is to try and join a disabled persons organisation in their area. The problem is that there isn’t always a disabled person’s organisation available, there are parts of the country where there just is no equivalent to GDA. What we do encourage people to do is to get in touch with Inclusion Scotland who are the kind of National umbrella organisation of disabled peoples organisations who might be able to direct them to somebody who in their area who could actually give them the support they’re looking for.
MM Okay, you gave us a good insight into what is the Alliance, let’s talk about some of the projects that you run. I think I was looking on your website obviously and I came up with a couple of different projects that you ran, speak to us about Pathways for Change.
BS Pathways for Change is a project that we have funding for from the lottery, that is really focusing on supporting different types of disabled people so through Pathways for Change project there’s a number of different initiatives and projects that we can offer to disabled people so for example I run Employability projects through Pathways for Change so disabled people who are looking for help to get back into work or to get into training or maybe who have never worked but are now looking to get into employment, I can offer employability support whether that’s one to one support and advice or coaching them and careers advice or group work. We do things like the SQA Employability award so Pathways for Change allows us to if you like diversify and offer different types of support for disabled people so there’s also a project within Pathways for Change, supporting young disabled people and we do some work around building their confidence and their knowledge of their rights and their responsibilities and we also do work through Pathways for Change for older people to address the social isolation that a lot of older disabled people experience so really Pathways for Change is a kind of a generic term for a range of different projects that we are funded to deliver at the moment.
MM We’re going to speak to you about that award that you won in a minute, I know you’re desperate…
BS Desperate to tell you about that…
MM …to tell me about, first of all let me speak about your project, well not your project but your part of the project that you work on your Learning, Volunteering and Employment as well, that’s another project that you…
BS Part of the employability work, you know, the starting point I suppose is that we know that disabled people want to work and they want to learn and they want to engage with learning and training opportunities but equally we know that there’s a lot of barriers that disabled people face to prevent them from accessing opportunities that non-disabled people maybe often take for granted so part of my job is to kind of support people, give people advice, coaching and information to allow them to explore opportunities for getting into employment also to look at how they can stay in employment using things for example the Access to Work program from DWP but also to look at ways that people can build up their skills, their qualifications and get into the learning and training courses that might allow them to progress their career.
MM Let’s speak about the good news, well it’s all good news but this is wonderful news that I saw on your website about your award that you won, I think it was in September this year?
BS It was back in September, yeah we were delighted…we were shortlisted for the UK National Diversity Awards under the category of Community group, supporting disabled people and to be honest we were just delighted to be finalists and you know, we were pleased with that and a number of the staff team went down to Liverpool. We were surprised and delighted on the actual awards night itself to find that we won that award so yeah we’re making quite a big thing of it because it is a UK awards and it’s…
BS …recognition that, you know, what we’re doing is you know it is making a difference. Interestingly I think what actually swung it for us was that we produced a DVD, all the finalists had to produce a DVD and our DVD featured our members talking about what GDA has meant for them and all the individual members were talking about how working with Glasgow Disability Alliance had supported them and changed them. I think it was actually our members that won it for us rather than anything else, I think it was the fact that they gave such positive, kind of testimony about how they valued Glasgow Disability Alliance, that’s really what won it so and it sounds a wee bit kind of corny but the award is an award for our membership because everything we do is based on what our members you know achieve so it was an award that we see is for the staff team certainly but for the whole membership.
MM Before I ask you about how can people join and stuff like that I want to ask you about The Purple Poncho Players because I saw the Purple Poncho Players a few times and I know a few people that’s in it and they do a lot of good work and stuff like that, organising scripts and all that so I think that this is a good thing to promote on Iriss to tell people about it and stuff.
BS Yeah I mean the Purple Poncho Players is if you like the kind of drama group of Glasgow Disability Alliance, we have a group within Glasgow Disability Alliance called a Drivers for Change which is our group of if you like campaigners and it’s people who are members who want to try an influence policy and change practice who are involved in a range of campaigning activities whether it’s lobbying their councillor or speaking at a cross party group at the Scottish Parliament or writing to MSP’s or speaking to partner organisations like NHS and so on and within the Drivers for Change what we’ve found is that you need to raise people’s awareness of what the issues are that are affecting disabled people whether it’s hate crime or the lack of access to jobs of so on and one of the things we’ve found, Michael, that’s really affective in terms of raising people’s awareness is rather than just beating people over the head with information and statistics is to use drama and poetry and performance, so the Purple Poncho Players came out of that and we’ve now got a group who are members who use drama and working with some professionals from kind of stage and theatre have developed a whole range of kind of poems, sketches and material which really convey what some of the, you know the issues are and we feel very strongly that the best people to kind of you know to do these kind of performances are disabled people themselves and they came up with the scripts, they developed the ideas and it’s their humour and so on and you know it really shines through but we know it does make a big difference that there’s a big impact on people and we recently…The Purple Poncho Players, did a performance at the launching of Hate Crime Awareness Week and there was a group of young people there from various schools in the city and the impact on them was just incredible and it just to us demonstrated the value of using drama and live performance because you could of…I could of stood there and delivered that power point presentation , giving them facts and figures on disability hate crime but it was really the performance by The Purple Poncho Players that absolutely kind of dramatised it and brought it to life and made them see the impact of something like hate crime has on disabled people’s daily lives so it’s a great tool, something we you know really value very highly and we’re always looking for new performers so if anybody out there wants to get involved in The Purple Poncho Player drama group then get in touch with us and let us know.
MM Yeah I would recommend, if you’ve not seen it check the Glasgow Disability Alliance website because it is powerful and it’s not serious, it’s serious but funny. It carries over a serious message…the message that’s got to come across is a serious one.
BS Absolutely, I mean what we’ve found is that you know people don’t want necessarily you know it to be all humour and light hearted, that would be frivolous but we find that if you have a mixture of some hard hitting sketches, we do have some very you know powerful and very emotional sketches and material but also we have quite a lot of humour in there as well and I think you need to have that to kind of keep an audience engaged especially as often the audiences we’re targeting are not disabled people so we need to raise their awareness.
MM So how can people join the organisation Brian?
BS It’s very, very straightforward and I should stress that you know membership of Glasgow Disability Alliance is voluntary and of course is free. There’s never any charge for any of our services or programs whether that’s one to one support or learning and training courses or the events that we run. If someone wants to join, they simply get in touch with us, they can phone us on 0141 556 7103 or they can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll give them a membership form. If somebody completes the membership form and they could do that over the telephone if that’s easier and we have their contact details what we will then do is we will send them out information so that any time we have got programs of learning or we have courses or we have events and so on they’ll automatically get to hear about them and then it’s just a case of them signing up for the things that they want to come along to.
MM Okay thanks Brian for you time and good luck.
BS Thanks very much Michael.
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