Quietly operating in Chester for many years now from the New Scene Centre in Newton, LIVE Cheshire are a charity that seek to empower and support people with any kind of disability. We visited the centre to find out more about their work and their varied activities they offer.
Adult education coordinator, youth community worker and manager of the “Moving on” project Andy chatted whilst clients were enjoying the sunshine, planting herbs and preparing for a barbecue. “Moving On is an a adult education project for people with disabilities aged 18-25 . It fills the gap after school and college and its about developing life skills, empowering them to move into independent living and getting them ready for employment and taking more control of their lives. ” LIVE work with people with any type of disability – physical, mental or sensory, or any combination thereof and of any severity – from mild to profound.
The New Scene centre has been here since 1993 and was originally part of the youth service then became a charity. Moving On takes place on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, alongside an extensive community programme. “We have the Patchwork choir with Matt Baker on a Monday afternoon. A community choir made up of young people with disabilities. “LIVE operate after school clubs and provide school holiday provision for the under 19s. ” On a Wednesday night we have as social club for adults over 25. We have fun things, where people can socialise and make friends , and we have educational and development projects as well. Everything we do is about empowering young people and adults with disabilities. We have a very friendly social group . We help to teach the people here how to function as adults.”
“We work with partners like Mersey Forest, we have a professional artist who comes on a Monday afternoon. we engage with Active Cheshire, Leonard Cheshire come to talk about employability skills.. There isn’t an awful lot for young adults with disabilities once they leave full time education. We provide cover for that gap and help boost their confidence and self esteem. We work in partnership with the BREN project- its not just about bikes, they provide work placements. “
Although not part of the council, LIVE did receive council funding in the past but this has recently stopped. Funded now by various national grant providers as well as some previous National Lottery funding, places on Moving On are generally paid for by for by Social Services. Alongside a team of experienced paid staff (Andy has been in his role for ten years) LIVE are supported by a number of volunteers. “We are always looking for more volunteers, anyone interested please get in touch. The partners we work with provide a wide range of activities. . There is a progression for people that come here, we are working towards the MENCAP pathway award, its a bit like the Duke of Edinburgh award. The goals for different individuals are set at different points depending on where they are as individuals. We aim to create a positive learning environment here where people learn by doing, by being a part of something and taking part.”
The Cycle project, another service offered by LIVE runs 3-4 days a week, giving people the opportunity to use accessible bikes like wheelchair bikes and tricycles. “There is a real health deficit for people with learning difficulties, it can be very challenging to access facilities in the community” says Andy. “This is a great easy place for people to come, not jut from LIVE but we’ve had people come from North Wales and the Wirral. They come here on a regular basis to use these bikes. The Greenway runs past here and we work with Sustrans to do litter picking to keep it today. There is a community garden round the corner as well that we work with. Exercise is a big part of Moving On. every session begins with a walk, we like to make it fun.
“During Covid all activities were done via Zoom. We had activity packs and art packs but this kind of work is most effective when its face to face. Physical contact is a good thing, we need it as human beings and a lot of our young adults are very tactile they like to give people a hug or a high five. It was unsettling when they came back at first and we had to keep our distance, its great to be back to normal now. “
During our visit, Elizabeth Mason coordinator for the Natural Health Service and The Mersey Forest, one of LIVE’s partners was also present. “ The Mersey Forest ( https://www.merseyforest.org.uk/) is a collection of woodlands and green spaces across West Cheshire and Merseyside, one of 13 community forests in England. Its all about getting trees in the ground for environmental, health and economic reasons and benefits. We connect people to their local green spaces and look at how we can improve peoples health and wellbeing through that. We focus on areas of greatest need for example areas where there are greater health inequalities. This is one of many different programmes we run, in partnership with other organisations. Here we focus on mindful contact with nature including horticultural therapy, and the social aspect, planting etc. For this particular programme because we partnered with the LIVE centre it suits the people who are coming to use the centre.
“For all of of out other programmes we put information out on our website and social media, and we also use the NHS via link workers and social prescribers like GP surgeries. The only other project we are working on in Chester is Jubilee fields in Huntington , we do healthy conservation sessions there every week in partnership with the Conservation Volunteers. ”
Freelance nature therapist Debbie was running the day’s activities. ” I’ve been involved in outdoor learning and forest schools for over 20 years. In the last 6 years I’ve branched off into mindfulness and I created a programme called Pathways to change. Then Covid struck and it forced everyone outdoors into nature. The programme was about getting outside and changing little aspects of your life to connect with the outdoors, whether it be planting or nature sketching etc. This project we are doing today is called Planting the seed, with a lot of emphasis on tree planting and getting people outside. ” As part of the 3 way partnership with LIVE! and Mersey Forest, Debbie visits weekly and organises activities including planting, clay pot making sketching and nature journaling.
Staff member Roisin began volunteering at LIVE! when she was 13. ” I’m 38 now, I have had gaps in between! I started on a Youth Arts project as a dancer. I have now been been employed here for 13 years and now I’m the senior coordinator for our over 16s. Once you get to LIVE! and you get to know us, you dont leave. We dont have a high turnover of staff, the majority of staff have been here for ten years, we are a really close knit organisation and our young people and our volunteers continue to push it forward, without them we wouldn’t be here. We’ve grown from a Saturday morning club in 1993 to delivering work every day of the week. We have been really fortunate with funding, but our profile around Chester is still quite minimal and we want to raise awareness in the local community of what we do. ” She also appealed for anyone who could help fix some large potholes that have developed in the charity’s car park.
Andy concluded that “For the people that come here they see it as a extension of their family, a safe place where they wont be judged and they feel comfortable. In other places in the community people may look at them strangely, because of they way they speak or act, here there is no fear of judgement. There are still a lot of barriers in society for people with disabilities , I don’t think people realise that people can still struggle on a day to day basis in accessing service and being judged.”
Thanks to everyone at LIVE! For more information see :