Avalon Conference 2019

Date: Dec 5, 2019

Avalon Conference 2019

Thursday 21st November proved to be a very inspiring and thought provoking day for all who attended the sixth annual conference held at York Sports Club in Clifton.

The title of our conference this year was ‘Innovation for All’. We chose this title as we are passionate about, and committed to the future of social care, and the important role we all have to play in driving positive change.

This year we asked each of our local teams to deliver a presentation on a key innovation topic. This included:

  • Diversity
  • Inclusion
  • Wellbeing
  • Relationships
  • Positive Behaviour Support
  • Active Support
  • Mental Health

Each team delivered 10 minute sessions to inspire and motivate their peers, colleagues and Avalon stakeholders to take new ideas away with them and to drive new ideas across our charity.

There were some particularly affecting highlights from these sessions, perhaps most emotional of all was our Teesside team’s Diversity session, which focussed on LGBTQ+ rights and advocacy. The session began as an opportunity to educate the room on local forums, groups and resources, but ended with one of our customers, Sam, telling her personal journey coming out as gay in her 40s. Sam had kept her “secret” her whole life, and had not known where to turn, and had felt that she would be ostracised if she ever spoke out.

With Avalon Service Manager Hayley Wood’s support, Sam has attended local LGBT forum groups and has developed the confidence to be who she really is. Sam told the audience that she is proud to be gay. She was understandably overcome with emotion after receiving a standing ovation, recognising her courage; a truly special moment.

We were also fortunate that some inspiring guest speakers joined us to talk about how they innovate to make a real difference. These included:


Esk Valley Camphill Community

Avalon’s Shared Lives carers & customers from Botton Village near Whitby took over the stage during the morning. The group offered all conference attendees a fascinating insight into how the community operates, with a focus on the positive impact of meaningful work opportunities.

Eddie & Klara, two of Avalon’s Shared Lives carers introduced customers James, Dan, Gabrielle & Etienne who talked about their roles & responsibilities within the community.

James told us he enjoys getting up really early, making bread and other baked goods at the bakery in Whitby. Dan & Gabrielle then explained how they are involved with crafts and helping to run the community shop, whilst Etienne explained how he looks after the gardens and tends to the livestock.

Eddie then told us about local GP (Marcus Van Dam) who found that the community at Botton fared much better in terms of health & wellbeing than other communities with disabled residents, with markedly lower levels of obesity and need for medication.


Jane Evans (VODG)

Jane Evans, Head Of Membership & Engagement at the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) discussed the concept of ‘disruption’ that comes with all innovation, and that it is essential for the social care sector to challenge the status quo if we want to move forward.

Jane inspired the room to think about the ‘big picture’ of social care, and to remember that often changing the little things leads to the biggest differences. The audience were encouraged to ask questions and not be afraid to put their ideas or opinions forward, and there was a real sense of energy in the room as Jane was cheered for her passionate words.


Supported Loving (Dr Claire Bates from Choice Support)

Avalon is committed to promoting lasting relationships between customers, as we recognise that meaningful relationships are what makes life so special.

We asked Dr Claire Bates from Supported Loving (a special arm of Choice Support) to explain how customer relationships can be promoted in a safe way, and to give examples of how loving relationships changes customers’ lives.

Claire talked about her research, and that there are often fears that customers getting in relationships may end up getting hurt or even abused. But, she said, this is not the reason to stop them happening, and these are risks all of us face when getting into a long-term relationship, yet we do it anyway.

Claire showed us two very impactful videos, one of which told the story of a lady who was engaged for over a year, yet was only permitted to spend a single night with her fiancé. After this single night sharing a bedroom, her fiancé died unexpectedly. The couple missed out on so many memories because of having being kept apart for so long, and this tragic story highlighted that if people want to be together, they should not have to face obstacles forcing them to deny their feelings.

The audience was left inspired to support more customers to find love, and Dr Claire explained that by visiting https://www.choicesupport.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/supported-loving teams can access lots of tools and resources to set up local initiatives.

The Annual Avalon Award Ceremony

Once again the jewel in the crown of the conference was the Annual Avalon Awards, recognising the truly special achievements across the charity over the last 12 months.

This year we received over 140 nominations across our 6 categories (a record!) and we were proud to announce the winners, who all received a special trophy and thank you gift for their incredible efforts.

And the winners are…

  • Non Operational Team Of the Year 2019- Learning & Development Team
  • Operational Employee Of The year: Becky Orrah
  • Shared Lives Carer(s) Of The Year: Paul & Carol Gingell
  • Support Worker Of The Year: Millie Fenwick
  • Operational Team Of The Year: Sherry’s Team (Northallerton)
  • Customer Achievement Of The Year: Alan Barclay (York)

We’d like to thank everybody for their nominations this year, and of course our winners, who have shown that Avalon is a place where the most amazing outcomes are happening every day. Well done everybody!










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