Who would have thought that way back in 2012, when a few families, including mine, sat around a kitchen table and dreamt of an organisation that would enable them to have more choice and control in their lives, to be able to live the best lives that they could, that we would be where we are now!
The recent BBC report which found that many disabled people have felt forgotten during the pandemic is a stark reminder that we must continue to listen to all members of our society and ensure that we keep important lines of support open, through even the hardest of times.
I know that this still feels like a very uncertain time for many of our families. As we continue to navigate our way through the pandemic we’re focused more than ever before on listening to your views and opinions. My Life has been built on the feedback of our community members, so please do keep it coming.
As the summer sun shines and the flowers and vegetables continue to blossom, I hope that you are all able to enjoy the holidays and do the things that make you happy!
I think we all knew it before, but for me, the incredible things that I have seen so many individuals do to support others during this unprecedented time, the things that people have done for me and my family, really do underline what we believe here at My Life. Together, we are better.
Enjoy the summer.
My Life Founder and CEO
We know that it can be daunting choosing and managing care and support, and always listen to the people we support, building deep relationships with them and making sure that the care they receive is tailored to their wants and needs.
So that we can better understand how our care is working for people, over the past few years we’ve been using the highly thought of Personal Outcomes Evaluation Tool (POET) to measure our impact on each person’s health and wellbeing, quality of life, feelings of choice and control and more.
After speaking with a variety of people, we were delighted to find that overall, they reported back an 80% increase in their quality of life, and 60% increase in wellbeing and self-esteem* compared with how they felt before we began to support them. It’s important to say that this data is compiled independently.
Among the people we spoke to were Linda and her daughter Nicola. Linda has a complex breathing issue, which would usually mean that she would be hospitalised with specialist care. However, with our support, Linda has been able to enjoy life with her family at home, with a consistent support team built around her needs. As Nicola says: “As soon as My Life Support got everyone in place to work for Mum, there was a moment where we all looked at each other and said ‘this is finally going to work, isn’t it?”
Another person we spoke to was Natalie, who has an acquired brain injury and requires 24/7 support. Previous to our care, Natalie was getting limited support and living in unsuitable housing, to the extent that she couldn’t even access her own kitchen.
After helping Natalie to secure her own, much more suitable home, managing her budget and recruiting a reliable team of PAs specifically matched to her needs, Natalie told us: “I can’t tell you where my life would have headed if I hadn’t had the help of My Life Support – because I daren’t think about it. It felt for the first time that I was getting care that was specific and targeted to me, from people who cared about the outcome, rather than the delivering the bare minimum for their standards.”
You can find out more about how the people we support feel about our care by requesting one of our case studies.
*Results from 2020 survey into My Life Support’s impact on individuals and their families.
Horses are ‘mirrors’ for our emotions – they sense what we are feeling and reflect this back. So it makes sense that through response and feedback, or, spending time with a horse and understanding how it responds to us, we are able to better understand our own and others’ emotions better and, very importantly, learn to slow down.
The pandemic has not been an easy time for anyone and many of the people who have participated in our courses have welcomed this chance to take time out, just for them.
At My Life we incorporate mindfulness and ‘being in the moment’ into our sessions. Course participant Lesley describes “laying in the field, looking up at the clouds (I find it difficult to relax)” being a stand out moment for her. Being aware of our surroundings and ourselves before spending time with the horses lays critical groundwork for our sessions.
Once with the horses, by using guided observation, touching, stroking and grooming them, we can begin to understand how they respond to each other and to humans. By building a trusting relationship, and guiding a horse in a way that prompts them to willingly follow their instruction, we receive instant feedback and gain confidence as the horse responds to us in the way we intended it to.
Cate, a busy full time working mum explains “the time spent observing the horses and just being with them was very powerful and unbelievably relaxing. I am usually a person that thrives on busyness and ‘doing’ and I hadn’t quite realised how hard it was for me to switch off and relax until after the first session. After each experience I felt calm and less stressed about all the usual things that actually really don’t matter such as shoes being left on the stairs or the lid off the toothpaste…somehow the whole experience for me helped to put things into perspective.”
In fact, being with horses in this way is often a catalyst to release emotions many don’t realise they’re holding in. Course attendee Steph describes this as “a timely reminder of the importance of creating space to acknowledge my thoughts and feelings but also being willing/able to let them pass.”
There are laughs along the way too! Maxine, who took the course to spend some time with a friend and experience some ‘me time’ after the isolation of lockdown, describes it as being “about taking back what I had lost through Covid…Enjoying life and laughing over the silly things. Feeling really relaxed, comfortable in the other ladies’ company, sharing everyone’s special moments and personal triumphs.”
And what do people take away from their time spent with our lovely horses? It’s different for everyone, but we like these wise words from Lesley: “It’s not where you finish, it’s about the journey to get there.”
We run regular Equine Guided Learning sessions throughout the year, on a one-off basis and as full courses, for teams and individuals. Whoever you are, whatever you do, you are very welcome! Please follow our Facebook page for details of future sessions.
As My Life founder and Chief Executive Caroline Tomlinson explains: “Up until three weeks before, when Wigan Athletic Community Trust came onsite to give our students and members a course in football skills, many of them had never played the game. From that first session, they’ve absolutely loved it and were delighted to get the opportunity to play against other teams, where the Wigan players train.”
As part of the festival, students and members were given football skills sessions by Wigan coaches and played in a mini tournament.
Chris Jordan, team captain, describes the passion and drive the team showed during the tournament:
“At the end of the day, we had three wins, one draw and one loss. As team captain I just want to reiterate that with ONLY two or three training sessions under our belt I am in awe of how well we all played on the day, I am proud of every single one on the team as they played remarkably and I cannot wait to show the rest of My Life how well we play as a team at some point!”
The team’s success has led to us finding a sponsor. We’d like to say a big thank you to Stuart and the team at National Risk Solutions, a commercial insurance brokers, who are not only sponsoring the team kit, but enabling us to provide members and learners with equipment for sporting activities too.
My Life staff member Karen Platt, instrumental in building the relationship with Wigan and herself an ex-Manchester United Ladies player, underlines the many benefits of playing sport:
“The number of students and members who have put themselves forward to play and enjoy this new experience has been fantastic. Sport isn’t just about the game, it’s about raising confidence levels, increasing your own aspirations and working as a team – skills that set you up for life. When you see the smiles on their faces – one member even did a forward roll in goal celebration, it makes your day! This just shows how sport can unite people.”
If you’re a My Life member or student and you’d like to get involved in our sports activities, please do let us know – everyone is welcome!
What kind of people are part of the My Life community? From members to learners, staff, visitors and volunteers, we’re a very diverse bunch, which is what makes My Life what it is! We met with Robert, 21, a student at My Life Learning, our Ofsted Registered specialist further education college, to find out about his experience of My Life.
I’ve been at My Life Learning for two years now and I’ve just had my third year here approved.
I’m quite an adventurous person and I like to keep busy, so I like the variety of fun activities, like woodwork, art, Duke of Edinburgh, gardening and cooking. I’ve been offsite gardening too.
I’ve been very interested in railways from a very young age. I volunteered to run My Life’s miniature railway completely solo at our Easter Picnic Weekends this year – I had to stop a few little kids putting their heads on the track! I told them not to give me a headache – we had a laugh.
Because I’m big on woodwork at My Life, I want to do woodwork on a heritage railway, I’d like to fix and make it and drive the steam engines from time to time.
One day, we were taking waste from the field and the male black pig tried to follow us, I had to get a wheelbarrow and chase it away! It was really funny – my friends couldn’t stop reminding me about it – but I took it on the chin – I can take it. Another time, I was feeding the animals and I was swarmed by chickens – you’d have thought they were a group of fans surrounding a celebrity, that’s how it felt!
Fun, cool and creative because it’s such an open space and lots of fun with different activities, even if some of them can get you in a pickle at times, like those farm animals. And the friends I’ve made at My Life are the coolest dudes – we like TikToking together – sometimes we do whistling and beat boxing, like I did at My Life’s talent show ‘My Life, My Moment.’ It’s such a cool place.
A keen horsewoman, as well as riding as part of her curriculum at My Life Learning, Chloe rides at an RDA Centre and Special Olympics Club in Yorkshire.
Chloe prepared for the regional final using a set routine with her horse. However, in a test of real resilience, on the day she was surprised to discover that a different routine was needed! Despite only being able to practice this three times, Chloe still outperformed the other riders, shining in the arena and wining the regional championship!
Chloe’s mum Sue says: “I was so proud of her. She can be quite determined when she needs to be, she’ll give anything a try. Even if she’s scared at first, she’ll do it. Chloe loves everything about horses. She can be quite shy, but when she’s with the horses she interacts a lot more. Winning has really given her a confidence boost, she was so thrilled that she won.”
Chloe will be taking part in the RDA National Championships later this summer and we will all be rooting for her – Chloe, you are an inspiration!
We are setting up a Riding for the Disabled group and are looking for volunteers to be part of the committee. If you would like to join the committee and play a part in ensuring that many more people are given the opportunity to ride, like Chloe, please call 01257 472 900 or email email@example.com.