Excellent Network champion: Lucy Bolden

Lucy Bolden was surprised to be recognised as an Excellence Network champion last month but her achievements for disabled people speak volumes. Natalie Valios reports

She is prepared to challenge when others might stay quiet. She has a practical idealismdaring to deliver what can seem too difficult. She speaks out for the needs of people who are most disadvantaged and upholds their rights as individuals. Her strongest endorsement is the quality of the services which she has helped develop, and the transformation of people’s lives which have resulted.”

This is what Lucy Bolden’s manager had to say about her. And as references go, they don’t get much more glowing so it’s no surprise that she was chosen as one of Community Care’s champions at our Excellence Network awards last month.

Bolden has worked for the disability charity Papworth Trust since 2000. Since May 2008 she has managed a care and support service for people with learning disabilities and complex needs. She had quite an unusual route into the sector, starting as an administration assistant in St Edmundsbury Council’s planning department, Suffolk, which led her to work with the local authority to develop services for disabled people.

She then became the council’s access officer, whereby she set up a grants scheme so that small shopkeepers could apply for a grant to the council to help adapt their shops to Disability Discrimination Act standards.

She moved to Papworth when she realised that she wanted to focus purely on disability issues. Her first project was to develop a one-stop service – West Suffolk Disability Resource Centre – for people with any disability. This is a partnership of the NHS, social services and voluntary groups working together to provide a holistic service.

“The services all existed before but were scattered around. We co-located them so people can get most services they need under one roof, as well as information, advice and guidance,” Bolden says.

Inspired  by best friend

On the question of whether there was anything or anyone that inspired her to move fully into the disability world, Bolden cites her best friend. “He had a high amputation on his leg but it doesn’t stop him doing anything – he’s climbed mountains in Nepal. He has always inspired me.”

Bolden’s other successes at Papworth include project managing setting up both a coffee shop as a training shop for disabled people, and progression centres in Essex and Ipswich, one for physically disabled people and one for people with learning disabilities.

“Progression centres are what people used to call day centres but we give people formal and informal training to help them live independently. So rather than them doing craft things we have vocational training or increase their independent living skills. But it is person-centred so they can choose to do craft things if they would rather.”

The most innovative project that Bolden has been involved with at Papworth is its Foundations for Living project. This has involved building three sites in town centre locations to address the social isolation that disabled people were feeling living in residential care. All three had eight flats, but one was particularly ambitious.

Inclusive environment

The idea was to create an inclusive environment to include a community centre, a local college and other providers, plus a block of 30 flats. Eight of these flats are owned by Papworth as the registered social landlord and are fully wheelchair-accessible and the others are privately occupied after being sold. Disabled people live there side-by-side with non-disabled people, says Bolden. “We call it accessible design by stealth – you wouldn’t know that it was designed with disabled people in mind.

“The site is in a premium location in Huntingdon so that disabled people have immediate access to shops and jobs. We did a lot of work with them for about 18 months to maximise their skills and get them used to the area. As part of that we developed a 12-step guide to inclusive communities on our website. We want to be a blueprint for others to follow.”

The results speak for themselves; because of individuals’ increasing independence, support levels have fallen from 23 hours per week to just 1.7 hours. But despite the success of everything Bolden has worked on at Papworth she was still shocked to have been chosen as one of our champions.

“I had mixed emotions about being nominated as a champion. I’m not generally one who likes to court attention in my working life. I was very surprised when I won, in fact I fell over as soon as I came off stage and dropped my award!”

Read Papworth’s 12-step guide to inclusive communities

Read more about the Excellence Network team

This article is publlished in the 25 June issue of Community Care magazine under the heading The ‘practical idealist’

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