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Help us improve our awareness of dementia

21 May 2015

This week has been Dementia Awareness Week. In this blog, Beth Bell of the Big Lottery Fund explains why we need your help to improve our awareness of this disease. 

Caring-for-Carers006We know lots of community and voluntary organisations across the UK are doing great work to support people living with dementia. Since 2006 the Fund has supported large and small projects across the UK that aim to improve the lives of people with dementia, their carers, family and friends.

For example, we have supported the Alzheimer’s Society’s work with people with dementia and their carers through setting up dementia cafes across Northern Ireland. In Wales, we funded ACE Cardiff to improving communication between people with dementia and their carers by training them in sign language. The Life Changes Trust will benefit people with dementia and their carers in Scotland and in England, we are supporting Memory Joggers in Great Yarmouth to train care staff to run reminiscence workshops for people with dementia.

We are keen to champion and learn from all of this work. We would love to hear from you about the best ways to support people living with dementia and how we can support projects working in this area. The expertise you can share with us will help us make well informed decisions about funding dementia related projects. This leads me to ask the following questions:

  1. Can you share some examples of great work being done to support people living with dementia, by projects large or small?
  2. Which models or types of projects respond best to local and regional differences across the UK?
  3. How can we successfully involve people affected by dementia so their experiences and expertise shape projects and services?
  4. What data is there that would help us understand what works, and what doesn’t?
  5. If you could do one thing to make a real difference for people living with dementia, what would it be?
  6. If you had £10k, £100k or £1m to help bring about change for people living with dementia, what would you do?

I’d love to hear your answers to any or all of these questions, or to hear what questions you would add to the list. To share your thoughts, please join our Later Life group and visit the discussion forum. If you prefer, you can also email us at

We look forward to hearing from you!

Helping Wigan’s young people fix their futures

5 May 2015

We hear from Ian Tomlinson of Wigan-based charity, Fix-It, which supports young people to gain skills, confidence and work experience to build brighter and more successful futures…

Fix-It is a Wigan based charity primarily aimed at supporting young people aged 14 – 25. Since 2004 the charity has been providing young people with training, personal development and motor industry recognised qualifications, helping them to gain the confidence to approach potential employers or go further in education.

Fix-It-UK-Ltd-1We work with over 130 young people every year and each one faces a range of different barriers such as learning difficulties or a lack of positive role models. We also work with young ex offenders, young people involved in anti-social behaviour, those not in education, employment or training, looked after young people and those who have been permanently excluded from school.

We make Fix-It look and feel like a place of work, all the young people have jobs to do each day and work in small groups with their trainer. As we get to know the young people we understand what is stopping them from having a happy, prosperous future. We un-pick the problems and help them to overcome the things that have stopped them progressing. At Fix-It they find something they are good at and are able to learn and achieve. They make new friends and we support them to make choices about their life.

Last year we secured Awards for All funding to run a welding and fabrication course, which was received very positively by the staff and students. The funding allowed us to trial the project in our Community Garage where we service private cars and vans to raise extra income. The students used their new welding skills to offer alloy wheel and welding repairs on cars and vans, giving them the opportunity to interact with real customers. The charity is now applying to Reaching Communities so we can continue to grow and up-scale the project.

We recently attended a Big Lottery Fund media training course in Manchester where we met other grant recipients and received training on how to effectively use digital and social media to tell our story. We met lots of different projects, all at different stages of their journey. Fix-it is now working with one of them, Sam Smith from Support the Youth in Blackpool. He is a passionate advocate for young people and his enthusiasm is infectious. Sam has already visited our project and we are going up to Blackpool to visit his and see how we can work together to make the North West a better place for young people struggling to find their way.

Have you read Sam’s story?

Have you been involved with a Big Lottery Fund project? …we can share your story!

Good luck!

Understanding domestic abuse… can you help?

5 May 2015

In this blog knowledge manager Sarah Cheshire invites you to help us better understand how to support those affected by domestic abuse across the UK.

Addressing domestic abuse is an area that the Big Lottery Fund has supported through a number of our funding programmes. These range from our open funding programmes such as Reaching Communities in England, which helps people and communities most in need, to specific, targeted funding like Becoming a Survivor in Scotland, which directly supports people affected by domestic abuse and survivors of domestic abuse to move on with their lives.

We want to:Woman looking into horizon

  • explore the difference our funding has made
  • learn from the projects we have funded and;
  • understand what works in supporting those affected by domestic abuse and how it can be prevented.

We have asked researchers at Cordis Bright to help us do this.

We would like to hear from you if you are working in this or any related field and feel you have something to contribute to this research.

There are three questions that we would like you to answer:

  1. Please tell us about your project if it touches the lives of people involved in domestic abuse and you have received a grant from us.
  1. We are interested to understand the range of measures that different projects may be taking. Please tell us if you are using a particular outcome framework or measure to show the impact of your work in relation to domestic abuse.
  1. In your experience what are the most important factors in successfully supporting those who are affected by domestic abuse.

You can answer these questions by completing this quick survey or by emailing

Thank you in advance for your help with our research.

If you would like to find out more about our research visit

Share your story

28 April 2015

In this blog we look at the power of storytelling and how you can try it for yourself…

Everyone has a story to tell, and as a not-for-profit organisation, your stories, and those of the people and communities you work with, are your biggest asset. How better to show the impact of your work?Kumasi-project011

A blog is a great way to do this and doesn’t have to take up much in the way of time or resources. When writing a blog, don’t think too much about producing a perfect piece of writing. Blogs are known for their casual style, and should read more like a diary than a case study or a report.

A blog is a conversation so try to write as you would speak, or imagine you were telling a story to a friend in the pub. Avoid jargon and clichés and use Plain English. Great stories, human interest, a clearly expressed point-of-view and (if it’s appropriate) humour will all make your blog stand out.

A good blog will also have a convenient hook, such as an item of local or national news or an event or a key milestone in the life of your project. It will also have an angle, which is your personal take on the story, your point-of-view or a particular way of expressing an idea. The idea is the general subject of the blog, but it’s the angle that puts the idea into focus.

Length wise, your blog could be as short as a single paragraph but generally blog posts should be no more than 350-400 words in length. Any longer than this and people tend to stop reading. Just as important as the words are images, so make sure your blog features at least one good quality photo.

There are many different ways to publish your blog, for example by submitting it to us for publication on our Big Blog. Or you might want to publish it on your website, or start your own blog using one of the free tools like WordPress or Tumbler.

However you decide to do it, once it’s published it can then be shared on social media to really get the conversation going.

If you would like to get in touch about blogging for us, please contact us at

Check out our other blogs:

A garden to remember a little flower

21 April 2015

There can be nothing more painful than losing a child, but Kerry and Ivan Mornington were determined to channel their grief into creating a lasting memorial to their daughter Violet, and helping other bereaved parents in the process. This is their story…

We were just a normal family; life was busy, but good. My husband Ivan and I had teenage twins, Molly and Caitlin, and Violet who was coming up to her 5th birthday. She was the baby of the family and the centre of everything.


But just seven weeks after her 5th birthday my beautiful, funny, clever and strong-willed little girl took her last breath in our arms. We spent four weeks in hospital while they tried to find out what was wrong with her. Just one week before she died, they told us Violet had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and HLH (Hemophagocytic Lymphohystiocytosis). I remember us all holding hands vowing to fight this together but a week later we were given the devastating news that Violet wasn’t going to recover. We had to make the heart-breaking decision to turn off the machines that were keeping her alive, and let her go.

No-one can imagine the pain losing a child brings. It was like the light had gone out of our lives forever and I had no idea how I was going to get through the next hour, let alone the rest of my life without her. I felt isolated and alone; Ivan and I lost each other for a while because we were grieving so differently.

A few months later we found some strength to start thinking about a memorial for Violet. We wanted to find a garden that was dedicated to children who have passed away and thought other bereaved parents must feel the same. I remember saying to Ivan: “It looks like we’ll have to build one ourselves doesn’t it?”, and that’s when the idea was born. We approached the manager of Lichfield and District Crematorium to see if we could build something there and were overwhelmed when he wholeheartedly supported the idea.


Violet with her dad Ivan.

Now for the hard work; we had to raise the money for the garden so our charity, Violets in Bloom, was set up on 8th April 2014. Any doubts about whether the garden would be welcomed by the community were soon quashed. We put on some amazing events and introduced our very own merchandise, including a superhero doll called Ultra Vi. Ivan has written a charity song and Violet’s uncle has written a children’s book called ‘Be Brave’.

We applied to the Big Lottery Fund and were overjoyed when it was approved. We have now reached our target and are just waiting for the final garden design to arrive so we can get the work started. It’s due to open in August 2015 and I can only imagine how I’m going to feel on the day we cut the ribbon to open ‘Violet’s Garden’.

Once the garden is open we want to keep moving forward. When Violet was in hospital we were surrounded by support 24 hours a day, but when she died we were suddenly flung out into the real world and it was so frightening. We want to bridge that gap and open a centre to provide a wide range of support services to bereaved parents, children and families, with rooms for drop in sessions, counselling, alternative therapies and creative sessions to help people express their grief. It’s an ambitious project I know, but we have come so far in just 12 months and I truly believe we can do this.

To find out more about Violet’s Garden, visit

BBC Countryfile saddles up to film farm project

20 April 2015

Their project has only been up and running since January 2015, but Lane End Farm Trust, based in Abney in Derbyshire’s Hope Valley, is already attracting a lot of media attention. And this Sunday (26 April) they’ll be making their Countryfile debut…

Countryfile-Hannah-Carer-and-EllieNo strangers to local news reporters (one recently turned up to film project staff herding piglets through the snow), the Lane End team has now welcomed BBC One’s Countryfile crew, including presenter Ellie Harrison.

Lane End Farm Trust is a working hill farm in the Peak District National Park and in late 2014 was awarded £275,000 through Reaching Communities for its three-year Riding High project.

The organisation enables disabled and disadvantaged young people to have access to the countryside, providing activities and mentoring programmes to aid their personal development.

Riding High uses rare-breed Eriskay ponies to help young people take part in breath-taking treks over Abney Moor, as well as learning to care for and communicate with the horses. Part of the grant has paid for a wheelchair-accessible carriage, allowing young disabled people to join in with their peers.

Countryfile’s Ellie Harrison went out on a trek with the project’s young participants, and also met youngsters from another charity, based in Chesterfield, who are raring to get involved.

Volunteer Vivienne Howson said: “We can’t wait for this to happen. We have explained it will take time, but thanks to the Big Lottery Fund they will, one day, all be ‘riding high’.”

Big Lottery Fund Funding Officer, Holly Hudson, said: “The Countryfile team was ‘bowled over’ by Lane End and is already making plans to go back to the farm to make a longer film. This is a fantastic project and I’m looking forward to paying them a visit in the summer, as my family and I will be staying nearby.”

Don’t forget to set a reminder to tune into Countryfile this Sunday on BBC One at 7pm. 

A brain injury is ‘life-changing, not life ending’

14 April 2015

Jan Rock is the founder of Matrix Neurological – a new charity that provides holistic neuro-rehabilitation services and practical support to children, young people and their families who are living with the effects of an acquired brain injury.

Isn’t it strange how unpredictable life can be? Just when you think it’s running to plan along comes a curve ball that knocks you down again.

Jan Rock

Jan Rock

Saturday 28th August 2010 was a sunny bank holiday weekend and my husband and my 16 year old son had gone on a climbing trip to Highcliff Nab in Guisborough, a popular visitor spot.  However within half an hour of arriving, my son had fallen 70 feet from the top of the cliff. Doctors described his injuries as ‘the worst they had ever seen’ and considered the complexity and severity of his injuries to be ‘un-survivable’. We were told to expect the worst; if Callum did survive the injuries to his brain were so significant he would have ‘no quality of life’. Either way, his life – and ours – would never be the same again.

Well miraculously Callum did survive and has gone on to make an astonishing recovery. He survived because of his incredible inner strength and determination and the amazing talents of the 10 different consultants who managed his care during the time he spent in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Neuro-rehabilitation is the next stage. Across the UK the NHS priority for in-patient rehabilitation, whether for children or adults, is: “to improve basic self-care skills; including bathing, dressing and feeding.” Once this is achieved and the child or young person is considered ‘medically stable’, they are discharged and occasionally provided with limited access to some very disjointed community services.

However, research shows that with the right help and support, people can make significant neurological improvements in their ongoing recovery, and this can continue for many years post-injury.

Sadly what many families don’t know at this point is that across the whole of the UK:

  1. There is very little help and support to assist their ongoing recovery
  2. Acquired brain injury isn’t widely understood across the general population
Callum proudly carrying the Olympic Torch

Callum carrying the Olympic torch.

In 2012 the NHS ‘estimated’ approximately 40,000 children and young people across the UK sustain a brain injury each year. Yet in 21st century Great Britain, these children aren’t actively supported to recover from a life changing event or to regain any pre-accident abilities, which are the foundations of their future health and economic wellbeing.

With Callum as our inspiration, Matrix Neurological has been created based on personal experience and out of a clearly identified need.  We are a new charity that aims to provide the practical help and support children and young people need to recover and succeed, and pro-actively support their families so they don’t face the enormous challenges ahead on their own.

We received a £10,000 grant last month from the Big Lottery Fund, which is enabling us to establish an office base from which to manage the charity, and start developing and delivering some innovative neuro-rehabilitation services.  We’re aiming higher because we believe an acquired brain injury is life-changing, not life ending.

If you would like to find out more about Matrix Neurological, check out their twitter page

My work experience week with Team Big Music

13 April 2015

Big Music Project champion Dean Joseph recently spent a week with Team Big Music at Global HQ in London’s Leicester Square. Here’s what he got up to…

My BackgroundDean-Joseph---Big-Music-Blog

My Big Music Project Hub at Windsor and Maidenhead has been involved with The Big Music Project from the very beginning. We’ve created some great projects for local young people, including open mic shows to let them showcase their talent. Our champions also came up with an idea of young people working with war veterans to learn about their experiences and then turn them into songs. This led to another project that saw champions helping young people, who are in care or experiencing personal issues, to express themselves through music and learn songwriting, producing, recording, and mixing.

All these opportunities have given young people in my area some amazing experiences, including myself – from winning an award at the Positive For Youth Awards to representing Global Radio to gain further funding for The Big Music Project. It was this that lead me to do work experience at Global Radio.

My time at Global

I got to sit in on Capital XTRA’s Toni Phillips’ daytime show and watch her in her element. I showed her my YouTube page and played her my latest song ‘Showtime’. She ended up giving me a shout out on-air saying she ‘had the next Big Sean in the studio’, which was amazing.

During my time at Global I got a great insight to the music industry, seeing what the individual projects and teams do. I wrote interview questions for Rizzle Kicks for The Big Music Project Final, scheduled tweets for Big Music’s Twitter account, provided vests for London Marathon participants as part of Global’s Make Some Noise charity, helped Capital XTRA research features about Dr Dre and Amber Rose, and even managed the VIP guest list for The Big Music Project Competition Final.

On my last day I met with Mark Findlay, the Group Head of Live Music for Global (who basically picks all the music Capital FM, Heart and loads more radio stations play).

We talked about how brilliant The Big Music Project Final was and how there was such an amazing variety of young people in the competition. I showed him some of my music and he gave me great feedback, telling me to go out and start gigging. Mark also told me he would try and organise meetings with Ministry of Sound and other record companies so they could give me feedback on my music.

All in all, my week of work experience with The Big Music Project team was amazing and insightful. They really are doing something fantastic for young people who love music.

To find out more about The Big Music Project, visit


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