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Celebrating our disabled communities

People from disabled communities across Devon were honoured at a special awards ceremony in Exeter last Friday (22 March).

The BASH awards recognises the achievements of people from disabled communities in line with being active, being safe and being healthy – which is where the name BASH derives.

The awards are organised jointly by Devon and Cornwall Police, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in collaboration with Devon Link Up and ROC Active - two of the county’s key charities involved in supporting those with learning disabilities.

Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez, said: “The BASH awards, like Blue Light Days which take place during the summer, aim to give people living with learning disabilities the chance to get to know more about the police while having a great time.

“This is a really important way to build people’s confidence – helping to allay any fears that may arise if they ever need help from a police officer. 

“I treat public engagement very seriously – not only is it improving connections between police and communities, the Chief Constable’s top priority, your views are at the heart of all the major decisions we take.”

Chief Superintendent Sam de Reya, commander for north, east and west Devon, said: “It was a privilege to be part of the BASH celebrations on Friday and I am incredibly proud that Devon and Cornwall Police is a driving force in this amazing event.

“We take our involvement with all communities very seriously. We know that our relationship with the most vulnerable in society, and the amazing people who help those vulnerable people live full and rewarding lives, is absolutely vital.

“The work of our diverse communities’ teams puts them at the heart of this community and the BASH awards is an appropriate celebration of that community.”

This year saw a very high standard of nominations and the judging panel found it incredibly difficult to pick winners.

There were seven award categories and over 70 nominations considered.

The winners, who attended the presentation ceremony at Westpoint, were:

Category: Making healthy choices

Rosemarie Seal from Exmouth
Rose was overweight and housebound, did no exercise and lived off junk food.  Rose took the decision to try to lose weight and with the help of her support workers, portion control and healthy eating she has lost nearly 15 stone and is still working on losing more.

Category: Taking up a new sport or responsibility

Paul Greenstreet from Barnstaple
Due to his autism, for many years, Paul had been socially isolated and found making friends very difficult. He has just taken up playing football. Paul had never played any sport and prior to joining Barnstaple Ability FC had never been part of any team.  Paul is improving his skills and understanding of the rules of the game and also starting to communicate with his teammates and coaches.

Category: Learning and achievement

Rebecca Chance from Torbay
A year ago Rebecca was heavier than she would have liked, with few friends she was unable to communicate or read or write and was very unhappy. In December 2017 Rebecca joined a Shared Lives family in Torbay. Since then she has lost five stone, walks the dog independently, is having weekly swimming lessons and is living a healthier lifestyle all round. She is having speech and language improvement sessions, reading lessons and enjoying work experience at Crealy Animal Farm.  The change in her is remarkable.

Category: Act of bravery – joint winners

Miriam Kerr from Bideford
Miriam is wary of crowds and new places. She had a great fear of small confined spaces and would get nervous climbing on the back of the buses so taking a significant journey by public transport to London to see her favourite group, S Club Seven, was a huge step for her. But she did it and once there she had to work through the crowds and jump on the tube. Miriam overcame several of her fears and anxieties and has now opened up to so many more experiences for the future.

Charley Mooney from Totnes

Charley has learning disabilities and severe autism and has had to show bravery in situations many of us would find frightening and challenging on the best of days. He has managed fantastically in intimidating and overwhelming situations, all whilst feeling unwell, being in considerable pain and finding communicating how he is feeling hard and frustrating. But, he has come through and is back in his job at Tesco and excelling at Rushbrook Day Centre, gaining crucial life skills.

Category: Act of Kindness

Kyle Clark from Barnstaple
Kyle helped organise a fundraising project at Barnstaple Ability FC for a portable defibrillator and sold so many tickets that he raised a considerable amount of the funding needed. When one of his own tickets was drawn first Kyle chose a framed Arsenal picture which he kindly gave to a teammate with austism spectrum disorder who really wanted it because he is an avid Gunners fan. A huge gesture of friendship and kindness.

Category: Keep safe ambassador

Katy Bannister from Barnstaple
Katy is part of the HOPE (Helping Ourselves Prevent Exploitation) team. She works with other colleagues with learning disabilities to raise peer awareness about what sexual exploitation is, how to recognise it, and what to do if it is happening. There is an emphasis on the risks posed by social media. Katy and the HOPE team have spent the last two years delivering half day workshops to learning support students at Petroc College in Barnstaple.

Category: Community champion – joint winners

James Russell from Barnstaple
James was an amazing footballer and one of Barnstaple Ability FC's oldest players but retired after getting a number of injuries and turned to coaching. He helps set up the drills, collect the balls, holds the tactic board and brings on the drinks bottles and first aid bag if needed. In addition he is a leader at The Gateway Club and in the summer he volunteers at RHS Rosemoor. James really typifies what the BASH Awards stands for he is active, encourages people to stay safe and leads a healthy lifestyle.

Jackie King from Torbay
Jackie set up a well needed coffee morning for parents who have children with special needs called "Tissues and Issues". It provides information and support and is a group that has a great family feel. There is a monthly guest speaker who comes from an organisation such as Camhs, Educational Psychologists, children’s disability team, solicitors etc.  This is an invaluable resource to regular attenders and over 420 people on the Facebook group in Torbay alone meaning parents can talk to someone anytime and share success stories and any problems.