• Creating a Community Where Everyone Belongs

MyLife News

Information about the Coronavirus vaccine, for people who find pictures easier than words

Information about the Coronavirus vaccine, for people who find pictures easier than words

If your loved one is waiting for their vaccine invitation, they or you might feel a bit apprehensive about it.

Beyond Words have put together this easy to use visual guide to having the vaccine. 

It’s a story for people who find pictures easier to understand than words. In fact, it’s not necessary to be able to read any words at all. It also comes with a guide explaining how best to use it to talk through any feelings or concerns.

It might help to look at it together, so that you or your loved one can feel prepared when they receive their vaccine invitation.

You can read it here.

Fun, themed chalet weekends this summer, exclusive to My Life members!

Fun, themed chalet weekends this summer, exclusive to My Life members!

We’re very excited to announce that this summer, we’re holding exciting themed weekend holiday stays in our chalets, with full support!

Exclusive to My Life members, you can enjoy a break in a familiar place, with just a few others. Even better, all bookings will be honoured if the weekends have to be postponed due to Covid-19. 

With three different themes, which will you choose?

Farming Fest

Live a farmer’s life – from seeding to planting, crop rotation and caring for our farm animals, perfect for those who don’t mind getting their hands in the soil!

Master Chef

Learn to cook your favourite dishes! Become Master of the kitchen! Experience alfresco dining and BBQ’s as the sun goes down.

Mini Fest

Enjoy drama, dressing up, music and making festival props. Create a wonderful space to enjoy each other’s company and a camp fire sing song!

How much does it cost?

  • £225 for the weekend (including full board and *support)
  • £135 for two days non-residential (Saturday and Sunday)

Book today on 01257 472 900 or email info@my-life.org.uk!

Weekends start at 4pm on Friday and end 4pm Sunday. Please note that bookings must be paid in full in advance.

*If you require 1-1 support this may involve additional costs which we are happy to discuss.

My Life Blog – Caroline Tomlinson: ‘How to help people live their best lives despite the pandemic.’

You might have come across the discussion in the media recently about people with additional educational needs or disabilities being “forgotten” during the pandemic. These are the very people and families who desperately need the structure, routine and – perhaps most importantly – feeling of belonging to a community where educational opportunities and meaningful things to do in the day are critical. The people that My Life was set up for in the first place.

But many are at home. We see it ourselves; there’s one young man who would usually come to enjoy all the facilities and caring atmosphere at My Life in Standish, but, because he’s in the clinically vulnerable group, is isolating. However, we haven’t forgotten him. He is very much included. We are open – be that physically or virtually.

I’ve been really proud of our response to Covid within our My Life Learning and Day Opportunities settings. We’ve kept our doors and gates open to people who wanted to come; in fact the Education and Skills Funding Agency were pleasantly surprised by our approach. When the work with them was complete, we asked Public Health England to visit in case there was anything more we could do.

Why? Of course we all wanted to be safe, but we also knew how crucial it was for people and families to feel confident that they could return to a form of normality, a routine, an inclusive community.

It helped that we’re a unique establishment in Standish, where people spend 90 percent of their time outside. We had all the PPE, well ventilated spaces, one way systems. So it was wonderful to welcome 99% of our cohort back in September, and when the lockdowns were announced again in January, 50% are still coming to Standish and Leigh.

And let me reiterate, we haven’t forgotten the other 50%.

Making sure no-one misses out

I think if you’d asked us how we might make virtual education and day opportunities work for people who are practical, visual learners, there would have been an assumption it would have been really tough. But through a lot of hard work and determination that no-one will miss out, everyone will be included, we’ve integrated the live sessions with virtual sessions so that people can interact at home. They can cook together and we’ve produced learning kits which allow those at home to join in with the tools-based work. We’ve even managed to do some work in animal care – don’t worry, we aren’t sending sheep to homes across the North West!

Seriously though, ‘virtual My Life’ was hard for the people isolating at home to start with. They would see their friends at Standish and find it difficult to understand why they couldn’t be there too. But, going back to the young man I introduced you to at the start of this blog, that’s come full circle. He now feels that same sense of belonging, he feels included in the learning experience.

And, of course, the community experience too. We must ensure through this pandemic that everyone feels valued and a part of something. It’s the social interaction which is particularly critical for the people we welcome under the My Life umbrella. One mother told me that even though her daughter has extremely limited speech, it’s obvious she still feels involved and she’s still interacting online in her own way.

Crucially, it also gives her mother some respite, the ability to get on and do something else. It’s worked much better than we ever hoped. And as the vaccinations begin to roll out – most of our staff are vaccinated and by the time you read this hopefully our young man who is described by the state as ‘Clinically Vulnerable’ will be too – it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, it might be a while before we’re truly back to ‘normal’ as a society, but at least at My Life we are able to reassure people that there are familiar, safe places available that can help their vital routines get established again.

We really see how important that is: we have people in their 40s and 50s coming to Standish, whose parents are elderly and have struggled themselves during lockdown. We’ve been ringing, checking everything is ok for everybody in the family, and offering respite in the chalets – or full time and flexible provision at Standish if that can help them out of their situation.

We’re responding now and dealing with the paperwork later because, ultimately, we’re driven by the needs of the people we work with. In that sense My Life is more than simply providing a day opportunity or education, it’s making sure the person’s voice is critical in everything we do – and leads them to a more fulfilling role using their skills and gifts in the wider community.

Someone who epitomises this approach in a challenging time is Luke. He’s been coming to My Life since the very start; leaving a special school to come to us was his next step into the wider world. He did a few years in our further education programme, and throughout has been working towards his Duke Of Edinburgh Gold award, doing things that truly stretch him.

Last week, Luke finally got his Gold. A lovely story, and one that illustrates that it is possible to carry on and achieve despite all the personal (and global) challenges right now. You just have to do it in a different way. More than anything that really demonstrates what we’re doing on a much wider level with people in 2021. We’re not forgetting them; we’re helping them live their best lives.

Caroline Tomlinson, My Life Founder and Chief Executive Officer

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“What My Life Means to Me”: Samantha Moss-Gibbons, Animal Care Apprentice

My Life is a community of diverse individuals all working together.

That’s what makes our charity what it is, so we thought it would be nice to find out a bit more about the people who are part of our community! 

This week is National Apprenticeship Week, so who better to start with than Samantha Moss Gibbons, our Animal Care Apprentice?

How I got here

Samantha has always loved animals. Having worked at a local Equestrian Centre, she owns two horses, three dogs and after an unfortunate incident involving guinea pig gender identification, Samantha says “too many guinea pigs to count…”

After spending some time on a course at a local college, Samantha quickly realised that a more formal study environment wasn’t for her.  Having heard that an Animal Care Apprenticeship was available at My Life, she leapt at the chance to learn in a more hands-on environment.

Where I am now

An Apprenticeship is a way to combine a paid, practical job with study and Samantha feels that this suits her. Five months into her role, Samantha is now really enjoying her learning, which she does alongside caring for My Life’s menagerie of pigs, goats, chickens and of course, horses.

And it’s not just about the work. As Samantha says: “I feel really comfortable here, because it’s such a lovely atmosphere. Everyone is really nice. Being here is building my confidence. I know a bit more about the world of work now and I’m less nervous about it.”

Where I could be in the future

Let’s face it, very few of us knew what we wanted to be when we were younger, but an Apprenticeship opens doors and gives the opportunity for new experiences.

“I’d thought about a career maybe as a dog groomer, but I didn’t know enough about it” says Samantha. “I spent a bit of time in My Life’s Doggy Day Care and now I’m thinking that this may be the way I want to go.”

So, in honour of National Apprenticeship Week, what advice would Samantha give to someone considering an Apprenticeship? “It’s simple. If I’d known how happy I would have been doing an Apprenticeship, I would have done it sooner!”

Find out more about opportunities at My Life, as a member of staff, fundraiser or volunteer, here

Discover more about National Apprenticeship Week here.  

My Life Blog: Caroline Tomlinson, “How Covid reminded me of the power of a values-based organisation.”

I had to self-isolate earlier this month. I have to say, it’s a strange, unpredictable virus – as soon as I started feeling better, another symptom kicked in. Covid throws you each waking hour. But it was in those moments of solitude that I was really reminded of a founding value crucial to My Life – that being part of a community isn’t just about geographical locality, it’s feeling part of a network of helpful, caring connections and relationships to which everyone should have access. I’ve certainly appreciated that support – albeit remote – in the past few weeks.

I’ve also seen the incredible sacrifice of our My Life Support teams through these difficult days of the pandemic – some even moved into the houses of people who need 24/7 support for two weeks, so families could be reassured that high quality consistent care could be maintained. To me, that emphasises the amazing humanity of the people we employ  – this isn’t just paid-for support, this is support that truly cares, and I don’t think you can put a monetary value on that. It’s priceless.

So, though the world may be tired and in need of respite, not only does it feel like there might be light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccination programme, but I genuinely believe that My Life’s cherished position as an organisation which believes in inclusion and the power of community in its many different forms gives us a great chance to be a shining light of compassion, joy and equality in a dark period where people are looking for hope.

Just before Christmas, I ran a management and leadership session for My Life staff. We’re really keen on this stuff; I’m sure you’ve all been on interminable courses which pay lip service to culture and values within an organisation, but given these inclusive values are the whole reason My Life was set up in the first place, it feels more relevant to us. Anyway, I got everyone at the session to stand in a socially distant line, at least two metres apart, in the order they came to My Life.

The ones who were there at the start were able to understand and convey why My Life’s values of inclusion are so important to us – possibly because I rammed it home to them on a daily basis in the early days! If you’ve been sent this blog you’ve probably heard them from me countless times too – but it’s worth reiterating how crucial inclusion is.

Everyone capable of breathing, even if breathing requires support, is entitled to be included in society and community – no-one is too difficult, too old, too poor or too disabled to qualify. We have to help people be part of and belong to communities because that’s the way we can recognise, encourage and value each person’s gifts and strengths – that way, we all learn and grow.

Indeed, personalisation – the central idea behind My Life, where people are empowered to build a sustainable life for themselves or their loved ones – was built on those values. Through focusing on values, we were able to come up with a process by which person-centred support could have a robust but caring mechanism to offer high-quality, consistent care.

Inclusion – or to put it another way, kindness – isn’t just an idea to bestow on others either; really it should be present in our interactions with everyone. Caring for people is more than a service, it’s a way of being, an attitude, which in turn enables people to live their best lives. So even though clapping for carers was a laudable initiative, is this workforce doing such amazing things in incredibly difficult circumstances really valued? If nothing else I hope this first blog emphasises that we must obviously always be kind to those being cared for, but the carers themselves deserve kindness and understanding too.

Anyway, back to my line of people. It was fascinating to find that at a certain point along it, some of those values got a bit woolly in the retelling. It didn’t mean that at some point we suddenly started recruiting uncaring staff, far from it. But it underlined for me that assuming people know the values of an organisation can easily cause problems. You have to spend time instilling values across all people – because ultimately it’s the values which will drive high standards.

I will admit, sometimes the growth of My Life into an organisation which offers day opportunities, education, advocacy, lodges for respite and independent living, and support to individuals with complex and enduring needs in their own home, means we hear whispers that we’re growing too vast, that we must be commercially orientated. But I can guarantee that every time we’ve been able to improve or diversify, it’s been because people have asked for it – or genuinely needed us to do something for them. This idea of an umbrella of support has been embryonic rather than part of a hard-nosed business plan.

Essentially, My Life evolved from a situation where people finally had the autonomy to choose how they wanted to spend money allocated to them for care – but found there was nothing to buy. We found good quality people to provide that care through our Pathways 2 Employment programme, and then got the response: “we’ve sorted the staff out, now what are they going to do all day?”

That’s how we grew and stood out from the crowd, by being an organisation that could be diverse while still keeping our core values of inclusion intact – which, returning to Covid one last time, has actually been a benefit; the blend of services and opportunities we have has certainly been critical to keeping the charity going.

This is a New Year like no other. But I do still want to look forward and drive My Life to ever greater ways of sustainably contributing to the community. Yes, we’ve brought people to Standish and Leigh in particular, and as I said at the start, the inclusion model shouldn’t always be about specific locations. But what our places allow us to do is build relationships with people, work out what excellent support actually looks like and find really positive outcomes for each person who comes through the door.

And by doing that, you can find the right thing for them out in the wider community too.

Caroline Tomlinson, My Life Founder and Chief Executive Officer

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Make our member Jack’s rock cakes – comfort food to brighten up lockdown

Make our member Jack’s rock cakes – comfort food to brighten up lockdown

Day Opportunities had a virtual ‘takeover’ session earlier this week, when our member Jack taught us how to make delicious rock cakes!

If you’re a Day Opportunities member at home, why not join our virtual sessions? From animal care to signing, karaoke and cookery, they’re lots of fun and a way to spend time with your friends. Call 01257 472 900 to find out how. 

In the meantime, if you fancy making Jack’s recipe at home, here it is: 

Rock Cakes

Rock cakes are a light, crumbly tea-time favourite. Eat while they are still warm from the oven.

Cooking time: 10 to 30 mins
Makes 12


200g self-raising flour
75g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
125g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
150g dried fruit or currants
1 medium egg
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4 and line a baking tray.
2. Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the cubed butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then mix in the dried fruit or currants.
3. In a clean bowl, beat the egg and milk together with the vanilla extract.
4. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until the mixture just comes together as a thick, lumpy dough. Add a teaspoon more milk if you need it to make the mixture stick together.
5. Place golf ball-sized spoons of the mixture onto the prepared baking tray. Leave space between them as they will flatten and spread out to double their size during baking.
6. Bake for 15–20 minutes, until golden-brown. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool.



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Registered charity number 1167858 - Registered office: Thompson House Equestrian Centre, Off Pepper Lane, Standish, Wigan, Lancashire, WN6 0PP

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