Looking back to 2017-18, looking forward to 2018-19

Our three strategic goals for 2016 to 2019: to reach more people who can benefit from our services, to extend our national coverage and to diversify our income streams.


Lead Scotland 2017-18 review by Emma Whitelock

We reached more people

We’ve exceeded our target by supporting 342 disabled people and carers compared with 307 people in 2016-17. To dig a bit deeper, we supported 318 learners to take up 375 courses, compared with 291 learners and 260 courses in 2016-17. Nearly 80 learners have now gained an Adult Achievement Award (AAA). 40% of learners responded to tracking 3 and 6 months after moving on from Lead: 86% said they were still using the skills they learned with Lead.  Read Lorna’s story, having just gained her SCQF level 6 AAA she’s off to university!

In addition to our learning services we matched 24 befriendees with volunteer befrienders compared with 16 people the previous year.  Laura tells us why it is good to be a volunteer befriender. In partnership with Learning Link Scotland and two schools in Aberdeenshire we also worked with 10 parents of disabled children.  Seven prisoner learners within HMP Grampian achieved our SCQF level 3 Community Action and Leadership Award, or completed units towards this. We were able to reach more people because we were successful in partnership bids for funding and we engaged more volunteers. We also deployed our resources differently in some areas to meet increased demand, for example by taking on sessional staff in Fife, Highland and North Lanarkshire to support small groups of learners.  

57% of learners received at least one home visit and 45% received two or more visits to start their learning journey at home. Offering home visits means we can reach people who lack in confidence, or who experience barriers which would prohibit them coming to us, certainly in the initial stages. Supporting 342 people in a person centred way means offering 342 different services with different combinations of educational guidance, tailored support, different learning journeys, technology on loan and one in three learners are matched with our 119 volunteers.

“After the course I started a temp job working in Olympics call-centre. I had training and I was more confident to deal with people’s problems”, learner.

Most funding is on an annual cycle but we have been able to sustain eight local authority areas as well as our national helpline and information service.

We extended our national coverage

We received 217 calls to our helpline from 27 local authority areas of Scotland, up from 193 callers from 22 areas last year. 17% of helpline callers responded to email tracking, 100% of whom reported positive impact benefits from accessing the Information Service. We loved having Chris our Information Service helpline intern who refreshed downloadable guides and pulled together people’s experiences to market the service more widely.  Thank you to SCVO and Inclusion Scotland who fund the Disabled Graduate Internship Scheme. 

At school children and young people identify as having ‘additional support needs’ but after the age of 16 under the Equality Act, people are asked to identify as a ‘disabled person’ which has led to some callers missing out on the right support.  We created a tick the box blog to raise awareness about positive disclosure. We also responded to 4 policy responses last year: Student Finance consultation, Autism Strategy Review, Student Support review and the British Sign Language Draft Plan. 

Partnership working has also enabled us to extend our national coverage.  Our Senior Policy and Information Officer delivered workshops to 200 parents of disabled children through the Preparing Parents for Transition Project reaching people in new areas of Scotland. She produced handbooks packed with local information to support the transition from school in Alloa, Ayrshire, Inverness, Fife, Perth and Aberdeenshire.

What will we do more of next year?

In April 2018 we became an SQA centre so that we can offer individuals and small groups of learners more accreditation routes. Disabled people are still twice as likely not to have recognised qualifications compared with non disabled people. We are immensely grateful to the supportive partnership we’ve had with ARC Scotland for many years, accrediting our SCQF level 3 and 5 Community Action and Leadership Award.  We are cutting our apron strings! 

In 2018-19 we are putting more time and resourse into working with disabled people and carers from our membership to more actively campaign on issues. This year we started this work by involving disable people in the production of a Disabled Students Allowance factsheet to address challenges flagged up by callers to the helpline. In April 2018 as a lead partner supported by other agencies, we brought 100 people together accross four areas, to directly respond to the Scottish Government’s draft Social Isolation Strategy. 

In the summer of 2018 we were delighted to be awarded two years of funding to set up a Digital Progression Project, employing five new, part-time members of staff across the north of Scotland.  A very exciting development! ““I am a lot more confident now, not just with computers but in all aspects of my life” learner, 2017-18.

As part of our commitment to the Year of Young People 2018 we have lowered the age of volunteer from 18 to 16 for certain roles, as requested by a group of stakeholders who were aware that younger people wanted to volunteer with us.  We have built more links with schools this year through talks by our Engagement and Development Officer.

I’m very, very grateful to our excellent staff, board, intern and volunteer team who are passionate and determined.  I’m also incredibly grateful to the growing number of partners and supporters who are enabling us to reach more disabled people and carers who want to find a catalyst to improve their lives and build stronger, more inclusive communities across Scotland.

Emma Whitelock