Buddying scheme for disabled residents makes 'fantastic friends' of Harrogate pair

Oliver Griffiths with his buddy Joanne Griffin 
Picture: David Simister
Oliver Griffiths with his buddy Joanne Griffin Picture: David Simister

The first ‘buddy’ in a charitable scheme to offer assistance and companionship to disabled residents across Yorkshire is now in place in Harrogate.

Disability Action Yorkshire (DAY) launched the 'Own Goals' Buddying Scheme last year, to help disabled people in the district to achieve their own life goals, whatever they may be.

For Oliver Griffiths, who was born with cerebral palsy, this has meant sorting out hundreds of pictures from community events into photo albums.

He said: "I’ve got lots of family photos and photos from voluntary work I’ve done and events. I don't always have the time to sit down and do the things that I want to do like correlate all my photographs.

"Because of my reading and writing problem as well I can’t just recall back if it’s six months from when I’ve done the event, it’s hard to try and remember every single thing you’ve done.

"I thought I need to get some help with this, I’ve got a rough idea when the dates were but because of my dyslexia its hard to correlate it all and process it.

Since October last year, Joanne Griffin has been buddying with Oliver, visiting him every Wednesday at his home in Harrogate.

Together, the pair have put Oliver's pictures into dozens of albums, and Jo has helped Oliver to be more internet-savvy by showing him how to navigate online shops like eBay and amazon to find better deals.

Jo explained that the scheme, which is more about playing the role of a companion than a carer, has given Oliver more freedom.

She said: "He just needs a bit of guidance, he has a lot of ideas but he just needs to bounce them off someone. I’m his person to do that with.

"I think DAY gives him a lot more freedom, his birthday came up and he doesn’t usually go out or adventure on his birthday so I said to Oliver, shall I change the day that I come and I’ll get a vehicle from DAY. We took him out for his birthday to meet his friends at the pub."

Oliver added: "It give you more independence and flexibility. People forget that we have to plan our whole day, it's fine for people who can just get up and go, we have to plan when we get up, when we come home and what care we will need when we're out and about.

"Sometimes to have a companion with you is helpful because you're trying to get through old Victorian doors that swing back on you, because some buildings are not always accessible.

"It's a relief because it also takes pressure off my carers, I don't have to constantly rely on the workers that come into my home whether its carers or social workers because you don't have enough time - you only get 45 minutes on a morning or half an hour at tea and half an hour at bed time, you might only see carers three times in a day but with Jo you might get two hours

But the as well as giving Oliver a new lease of independence, the buddying scheme has also created a genuine friendship between the pair.

Jo said: "I got made redundant a few times from a couple of jobs and the community helped me a lot so I decided to put something back in to the community and do some volunteer work.

"Working with Oliver has broadened my horizons so much. It's so rewarding, I love doing my work, I've met a fantastic friend as well as doing my volunteer work.

"Leaving here every Wednesday puts a smile on my face and I can't wait to see him the next week."

While Oliver, who volunteers with several community groups and organisations, is certainly not lonely, DAY has explained that social isolation is an issue among disabled people.

In a bid to help more of those residents across the district, DAY has appealed for volunteers, particularly younger people to get on board with the scheme.

For more information about the 'own goals' scheme or becoming a buddy contact Karen Minteh on 01423 855412, email karen.minteh@da-y.org.uk or visit their website