Thanks for 2014!

We thought it might be nice to reflect on the past year which has been pretty mega for SAND

Amongst other things to write home about, Peter Tatchell, Sue Sanders, Bisi Alimi, Jane Traies,

Peter Tatchell
Peter Tatchell

Tom Robinson and Carol Ann Duffy all joined us as Named Supporters, helping to lift our profile and increase credibility. On more than one occasion SAND has definitely been received more seriously because of these connections.

At the other end of the ‘glamorous’ scale – we set up a Paypal account! This was quite a thing for us because we did it at a time when not a penny had gone in or out of our bank account. Faith will-out and it came in very handy recently. This has joined our on-line giving site ‘Golden Giving’ to increase our ability to receive donations and payment for goods and services (all planning ahead to the time when we have these things to sell :-))

Towards the beginning of the year, we were successful with our HealthWatch research grant application and started interviews and discussion groups which are still underway. It has been a very valuable piece of work to date as we find out more about the issues affecting older and old LGBT people in Shropshire as they access (or anticipate) health and social care services. We are planning to bring interviewees together in the New Year before writing our report which will go to HealthWatch England as well as HealthWatch Shropshire.

Partly promoted by this research project, we developed a Confidentiality policy and an ethical policy for SAND to ensure that we work with integrity and model good practice. This focus on getting our house in order included conversations about branding and ultimately the production of banners, badges & business cards.

With our identity intact, we held our Launch in June. About 40 people came to celebrate with us and it was a great afternoon with displays, cake, presentations, cake, conversation and did we mention cake? Thanks must go to FRESh for the funding to pay for the venue

BannersNext up was the Shrewsbury Carnival which presented the perfect opportunity to try out our ‘teardrop’ banner. At least 4 of the SAND Action Group went along to walk with the LGBT float and what an afternoon was had with lots of rainbows and gay anthem music.

Back to business and 2014 saw the development of our SAND presentation. It is designed as a facilitated session which lasts an hour or an hour and half and which works (with a few tweaks) with a variety of audiences. Thus far we have delivered it to Glendwr University social work students; Shropshire Information, Advice & Advocacy Forum; FRESh; Shropshire Solicitors for the Elderly Network; The Vicarage Care Home staff.

With an eye to the future, the SAND Action Group set up a process to log in-kind hours so we can keep track of the actual cost of the work that we do. In the current financial year we have clocked up nearly £10,000 worth of volunteer hours so it is worth keeping track. We fully expect this to be useful when we apply for funding and it may come in handy somewhere else too – any ideas?

SAND’s profile has really come to the fore this year. Local groups have been  helping to spread the word and linking this with other innovations – it was great when Border Women held a fundraising and awareness raising walk for SAND. In fact there were two walks, one long and one short – walkers donated to SAND as well as producing cakes to sell at the end. This was a great – and very enjoyable – afternoon.

Over the Autumn months we have been busy updating the SAND Action Plan to make sure that we keep moving forward in 2015 and beyond. The whole Action Group is really excited about the future and feel like they really benefited from their first ever Away Day where we spent precious time getting to know each other better and collectively planning next steps.DSCF0663

Of course, the year came to a close on a high with the Fundraising Auction & Disco at the end of November. If you missed it keep an eye out for publicity about the 2015 re-run, pencilled in for 21st November. Watch this space.

Here is to a similarly fabulous 2015 – we are looking forward to it.

Our annual stats for social media (which will be a bit more of a focus in 2015)

First count was Feb 2014 (in brackets after each)

Mailchimp Newsletter 57 (34)

Twitter 126 (22)

Facebook 129 (76)

The road ahead

We have delivered a few presentations for different audiences lately and we spent a bit of time at yesterday’s Action Group meeting reflecting on these – what we have learned and how we can adapt the presentation for maximum impact. People are responding very well to it on the whole – with some even saying it’s the first presentation they have been to that has made them sit up and think! We have brushed up our website to record the presentations we are giving, and the events we are going to on a page called Out & About. One of our Action Group members suggested that we keep track of how many people attend each as well so the web page seems like a good place to do that too (we really really don’t want to get bogged down in paperwork!) We charge £100 per presentation (or less for un/low funded groups).

We are increasingly collecting information and expanding our own knowledge about the issues (potentially) impacting on older LGBT people and are considering producing a series of information leaflets that we can add to as we go along. There really is no point in us knowing this stuff if we don’t then share it with others. It is with this in mind that we have added another page to the website which is where we post all the film clips that we find – we really believe in film as an effective media to get messages across, we use a variety clips in our presentation and of course, it is where we started – with Gen Silent.

All these ‘promotional’ and ‘information sharing’ ideas are a little disorganised at the moment which is why we are planning an Away Day for the Action Group members – a day away in a nice location with good food to find out a bit more about each other, pool our knowledge of health & social care structures, identify some of the ‘ins’ for SAND and nail a promotions strategy – in other words, a fun day out! We are still keeping costs low and have got a bit of funding to pay for this day which feels very timely for the group. That will be in November so we have a small planning group getting it ready!

Alongside this we are updating our Action Plan to keep it nice and lively! We seem to have a good handle on our first Outcome: Empowered Older LGBT People, so we spent a bit of time yesterday looking at our second Outcome: Empowered Organisations and identifying some of the actions that will take us toward that goal (hence some of the content for our Away Day as this is all about finding the routes into the Health & Care Structures in the first instance). We will probably look at our third Outcome: Influencing policy next month but we need to wait and see how full the agenda is – there is no rush to shove this thing down people’s throats – we cannot do it all at the same time anyway so we are pretty relaxed about getting it all absolutely ‘just so’ – how refreshing!

Our HealthWatch research continues and we are grateful – and privileged – to be invited into people’s homes to share their stories and guide their conversations around hopes, fears, expectations and experiences of health & social care in later life.

And don’t forget the fun – plans for the 70s disco progress and the leaflet will be ready soon so dig deep and prepare to come along to this fundraiser on 29th November in Shrewsbury – details to follow!

This Blog records what is happening at which point of SAND’s development.

Coming Out!

The SAND launch to the LGBT community in Shropshire – and straight allies – took place on 5th July 2014 and was a hit. Numbers shifted over the 4 hour session – between 30 and 40 people turned out to have a look at archival displays, hear our special guest Jane Traies speak and get a look at the SAND presentation that is making the rounds of agencies in the area. There were messages of support from Sandi Toksvig, Peter Tatchell and Sue Sanders – we’ll put a page on the website to write these out and keep a record of the day. After all the input we had a ‘Discussion Cafe’ (with cake) to draw responses and ideas out of the people who were there and to add to the information now coming for our research interviews. We’re going to feed the information from these into the ongoing research we are doing.


As well as the launch, SAND popped up at the Shrewsbury Carnival along with other local LGBT organisations and groups – this was the second year of a rainbow presence and it feels like it is well received and making a good mark. SAND made links there with a local nursing home which had a float and many a badge was given out to people in the parade. It was great way to make some contacts and be seen – looks like a good one for next year too.

The banner popped up again at the Shropshire Older People’s Assembly Public meeting and this sort of visibility is really building confidence amongst the Action Group and local LGBT community who are increasingly engaging – coming along to the launch, taking part in the research, connecting on facebook or twitter.

At today’s Action Group meeting we revisited our SAND priorities – brushing them up a bit. We reflected that we have been doing quite  bit on the first one (empowering older LGBT people), are just about making a start on the second (targeting organisations) and very little on the third (influence) so – quite rightly – we will be moving into a slightly different era in the Autumn. We changed some of the wording as well to help us be clear about our intentions – changing ‘priorities’ to ‘outcomes’ and tightening up some of the messages – so they now look a bit like this:

Outcome one        Empowered older Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans people
This means that: LGBT people in care settings raise issues; LGBT people access the information they need; LGBT people ‘come out’; Older LGBT people are engaged and embraced (not isolated)

Outcome two        Empowering organisations
This means that: Providers ‘get that there is something to get’! Organisations improve practice; Service provision is appropriate to LGBT need; Organisations are held to account; Providers are proactive and come and ask us for help

Outcome three     Influencing Policy
This means that: Commissioners and influencers know that there is ‘something to get’ and come to us for help; Organisational culture and strategies change to proactively engage with and respond to LGBT people about their health & social care needs; Good working practice is supported by policy; SAND practice is informed by research, evidence and statistics

These are our aspirations for the next part of our journey and we will be working up jobs to help us to achieve them.

Quite a lot going on again

This Blog records what is happening at which point of SAND’s development.

A few words about SAND

Members of the SAND Action Group have been giving some thought to SAND – what they feel about it – how and why it feels so vibrant, what works about it, why they want to stay engaged and the key things to help others who may want to replicate. Their responses will be posted on this and future blogs.

I think the first word I would say about SAND is ‘passion’, as in ‘compassion’. Another way of putting it is that SAND is ‘passionate about compassion’, which is key to care in later life.

In 1980 I met a 99 year old woman who was struggling to walk by my apartment building. She finally sat in a chair under a shady tree outside her daughter’s home and I went to speak with her, but ended up sitting quietly with her. Finally she turned to me and said, ‘Why are you sitting here with me, when you could be doing something exciting?’ I stumbled through my answer about thinking she would like someone to visit with and then she said, ‘You know I may be old in body, but my mind still dreams of doing all sorts of things.’ It was then we got into some interesting conversation about just what those dreams were. It was enlightening to learn that just because you get older does not mean you stop dreaming, or loving those you have lost, or simply being who you are. Texana (named after the State of Texas), had been a great adventurer and independent woman in her youth, which came out in every word she spoke. Although she did not say it out loud, it appeared she was also a lesbian.

At SAND everyone believes that getting older should not exclude being who you are, whether that is lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans. Nor does it mean you stop wanting to be accepted or to make new friends, even in a care home. It also means that those who love you, straight or gay, want you to be happy and cared for as well.

I have enjoyed (and still enjoy) working with such a compassionate group of people at SAND and am amazed and proud to be part of something that is really starting to awaken people to the issues around growing older and not losing your identity in the process.

What do others need to replicate SAND:

A group of like-minded and compassionate people who believe that no one need lose their identity in later life. And, instead of telling older people what they should do or what we expect of them, perhaps we should ask: ‘What have you done, that you should live so long?’

End Note:
Did you know if you average the ages of all the human beings who have ever lived, the average age of life-expectancy is… 17 years. So living to be over 70 is quite a feat!

Time for some reflection

Today’s meeting was a healthy mix of moving forwards and looking back on what we have achieved so far. SAND has an Action Plan which was developed in the Summer of 2013 and we used to revisit this at every meeting – using it as a sort of ‘guiding agenda’. Ultimately that didn’t feel very inspiring as the nature of an Action Plan necessarily means there is a whole load of stuff which you haven’t done yet – hmmm, a tad depressing.

Once we moved to monthly meetings – short and productive, we put the Action Plan to one side and enjoyed more collective discussion during our precious time together.

This morning was time to see how we are getting on. We last looked at the Action Plan in October 2013 so, prior to today one of us got it out and went through it, adding a separate column for everything we have achieved so far – WOW, what a buzz! We then used half an hour of the meeting to pat ourselves on the back and add things that had been accidentally missed off!

Our website replicates the Action Plan to some extent and we’ll update that over the next week or so to capture all this stuff (so take a browse through the pages sometime soon). The process of a bit of reflection is very important for everybody in the group to see just what progress has been made and how we have chopped and changed a little to follow particular preferences – or just things that made sense at the time. It also helps to bring people up to date who have only just become part of the group and as our brand new Treasurer was with us it was perfect timing!

Soon we will have a go at planning for the next 12 months and see how we get on – doing it in 2 stages like this feels more manageable and fun than trying to do the whole lot in one go!

We are also moving along nicely on various jobs – we now have a Paypal account with the next move to put a button on the website and then work out how this and our Golden Giving site complement each other. We also have some ideas about Donation Envelopes – we got some samples from an online supplier but these are just too expensive for where we are right now so we reckon we can produce our own very cheaply – just to give out at our own events with invited audiences – anything more and we’d need to be looking into the laws around licensing. We are looking into Sponsorship as well, and what people might be getting for their money.

At this stage, it would really help to galvanise more people (beyond the action group) if we could start some sort of project sometime soon and we need resources to do that. Also, now that we have the responses collated from the pilot survey with housing & care managers we are keen to start building on it.

Last but not least we are now starting to plot a couple of launch events with different audiences in mind so yes, 2014 looks busy already!

We feel like a really high capacity group with everyone playing to their strengths. Seven out of nine of the Action Group members have been there since the very start and this continuity is fantastically helpful. People enjoy the meetings and don’t feel like they have a whole lot to do in-between times – and what they do is relevant to their own work and/or of particular interest to them.

This Blog records what is happening at which point of SAND’s development.