Innovate Trust was started by student volunteers from Cardiff University in 1967, to enable people with learning disabilities to live full, independent, active and valued lives within the community. The geographical areas covered by the group are Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan and Rhondda Cynon Taff and there are over 900 staff supporting around 264 people with learning disabilities to live in a home of their own. Their range of their work covers supported living accommodation, emergency and respite care provision, various social enterprises to enable training and work experience opportunities, and a horticultural project based at Amelia Trust Farm. They also carry out environmental/ gardening work at Porthkerry Park in the Vale of Glamorgan and at St Fagans National Museum of History. The Trust’s core work is funded by contracts with the three local authorities to provide services for people with learning disabilities, but they have received varied pots of funding over the years for environmental projects and activities.
Innovate Trust are currently participating in the National Lottery’s Climate Action Boost programme and took a phased approach to their overall aim of raising awareness of environmental issues and living more sustainably. Firstly, in the form of a building energy audit and secondly, further development of content on their digital platform.
One of their houses in Cardiff needed energy efficiency advice and this was a top priority to ensure their residents were able to keep warm and use energy efficiently. A full energy audit was carried out on their respite house- a building that has an annual energy spend of more than £2,930. Potential year-round savings of £1,198 were identified on energy costs (a 41% reduction). Compared to a standard detached house (4,150kWh electricity; 17,000kWh gas), this property uses 51% more electricity and 228% more gas. Some no-cost options were identified including checking and recording data regularly and checking that the heating system is fixed to a sensible temperature. There were also some suggestions that needed capital, such as a new boiler, modern radiators with TRVs fitted and a small array of PV panels on one roof. Installing all these measures could reduce the building’s carbon footprint by 47% – a significant amount! The boiler and associated works have been installed and Innovate Trust have themselves funded new double -glazed windows and doors.
Justine Tickner, the Manager there says,
“Since the boiler has been fitted we have had a noticeable difference with the way we use the equipment. We are in a position to use the thermostat which allows us to effectively gauge the heat and temperature control. The property has benefited from this as it is now warm when needed and easy to adjust to correct temperature. It was important to have the heating renewed at the same time as replacing the double glazing in the doors and windows so that the total heat efficiency was not compromised. From this alone I feel that we are now more environmentally friendly and far more efficient and not wasting energy. I also feel that our fuel costs will be reduced and our next energy efficiency rating will reflect this positively.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, a range of online activities have been established, via their digital platform called Insight, which has a membership of over 1,100 people. There are numerous activities available including yoga, learn Welsh through song, Church, gardening, guitar & ukulele sessions, wildlife, drama & wellbeing group, workout sessions, cooking, Zumba, relaxation session, and arts & crafts to name a few. The employment of a Digital Response Coordinator with funding from a previous National Lottery grant helps with supporting increased access to this platform including staff, families, and the individuals themselves. It has now been widened further to allow access to other organisations and individuals across Wales who support people with learning difficulties.
Several activities around sustainable living and healthy eating have been offered over the years, but they planned to expand this further, via the CAB funding, in phase two, with a range of digital activities relating to climate change. The proposed programme is extensive and includes:
A Virtual Allotment project- which is all about people planting, growing, and nurturing their own vegetables, salads, herbs or fruit wherever they are, and then taking half of the plants and planting them in the actual allotment in Cardiff. There are in excess of 50 participants- some with more profound impairments – and the first four sessions out of nine have happened. This is going well with plans to develop a sensory garden too. Here are some Responses from participants of the Virtual Allotments
Energy conservation measures – 3 planned sessions will start in late May and also a series entitled Climate change and renewable energy.
Voluntary work to help mitigate climate change- this is all about getting people involved in their community- maybe to help with a beach clean or a town litter pick. Risk assessments have been carried out, suitable locations have been identified and litter picking has now commenced.
Also, later in the summer, a very exciting and varied series of ten sessions led by Green Squirrel called Sustaining our Future – how to live sustainably will cover topics such as;
Nature on my doorstep– Discussing the problems facing wildlife and exploring simple ways to help.
Who made my clothes? Exploring the ways that clothes affect people and planet and more sustainable ways to choose, care for, and upcycle clothes.
Planet friendly food– explore how our food choices are linked to climate change.
Green body care- a way to cut down on plastic and get creative by making your own body treats.
Despite working with very vulnerable and at-risk individuals who have been impacted greatly by the Covid pandemic, things are looking positive with very encouraging engagement in these activities via the digital platform. It enables them to take control and participate in safe environments in fun activities and the addition of the more environmentally- themed activities is proving popular. The Trust very much feel that they are ‘doing their bit’ in terms of raising awareness and equipping people with the information, skills and confidence to take action on climate change.