What a year that was! Looking ahead to 2017-18

“With the right support and understanding I am able to achieve things.” (learner)

In 2016-17 our dedicated team of staff and volunteers engaged and supported 291 learners to work towards 279 courses. Most of our work is one to one and small groups which has enabled people to flourish. Two thirds of learners started the action planning and learning in their own home. We are striving to build our capacity to reach at least 340 disabled people and carers in 2017-18.  Our Befriending project in Fife is going from strength to strength.


As well as core skills and citizenship, there is a growing demand for digital literacies across all projects. 96 assistive technology assessments were undertaken and we are phasing in more portable digital kit as funds allow thanks to local authority funders, Friends of Lead North Lanarkshire, Heineken, Highland Rotary and others.  15 Community Learning and Development staff undertook our SCQF level 6 Thinking Digitally course building their confidence, digital skills and understanding of online accessibility.

69% of learners were still in learning, volunteering or work when tracked at 6 months. 77% said they were still using the skills they learned with Lead.  76% said they felt confident and motivated to continue themselves. (Note 54% of learners responded to tracking, our best ever response rate).

29 learners and volunteers signed up for Adult Achievement Awards at SCQF level 3, 4 and 6 and we’ve extended our licence to 50 places.  We shared our inclusive approach with partners at Newbattle Abbey College’s Adult Achievement Award in March 2017.

Over 100 volunteers supported Lead last year.  Next year with the support of our new Engagement and Development Officer, Gail Phillips, we are aiming for 150 volunteers.  One in three learners were supported by volunteers last year.

We moved our main registered office from Shandwick Place to our new office in the Merchiston Campus of Edinburgh Napier University, opened by Daniel Johnson, MSP.  An epic clear out after 9 years in Shandwick Place.  There was a lot of dust! We have settled in really well and are fast becoming paper light.  

We ran a highly successful national conference with over 100 delegates, Chaired by Dame Anne Begg and were delighted to start the day with keynote speaker Shirley Anne Somerville in her first public role as Cabinet Secretary.

Emma, Aberdeenshire learner won our first James Hill Learner of the Year Award in 2016.  Emma started on a one to one basis before building up her confidence. “Emma was an extremely shy young woman who over the year has gained in so much confidence that she now has three work placements where she is dealing with the public,” (nominator) as well as achieving her core skills qualification in Communication and an Adult Achievement Award. 

David become our 2016 Dr Ethel Gray Volunteer of the Year. “His attitude and level of commitment is above and beyond.”  (nominator)  David has volunteered with at least 12 learners one to one, as well as groups and is a founder member of Friends of Lead North Lanarkshire.

Emma Sinskins, James Hill Learner of the Year 2016  David Leathar standing with the sheild

We submitted 6 policy responses this year striving to influence change through sharing people’s experiences and we received 192 calls to our helpline and information service from individuals looking for reasonable adjustment to be made to widen access to learning. We produced a guide of charitable trusts for individuals looking for educational grants.   UNESCO and Soroptomist International supported Lead to share practice and have a voice at their Paris conference on the subject of accessible world wide elearning.

We are grateful to Big Lottery for Investing in Ideas funding to run a Community Action and Leadership (CALA) pilot in HMP Grampian which is midway as I write.  We are working with a small group of learners within the prison who are undertaking this Award, as test for change pilot.    

113 disabled people and carers have become active citizens through the take up of short and longer term volunteering projects as part of their action plan or through CALA.  Five young carers recently achieved SCQF level 5 CALA, their Solitaire Awards and two of the group also achieved Highland Adult Learner Awards to put the icing on the cake.  

Highland CALA group  Darlene and Amy sitting in a kitchen

We increased our organisational capacity and capability by involving 3 interns through funded schemes (fundraising and communication support) and a temporary administration worker on a Community Jobs Scotland placement. We restructured our organisation to respond to our changing needs and have recruited an Engagement and Development Officer to support us with fundraising and volunteer development building on the good work started by our interns. 

We’ve just pipped 1,800 followers on Facebook and Twitter as we look forward with ambition to reach more learners who can benefit from our services and grow our footprint across Scotland.  If you share our ambition, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

Emma Whitelock CEO