ILEAP began life in 1996 as the Stratford Summer Activities Project for Disabled Children.
This project office was based at Stratford-on-Avon District Council and was initially supported by the District Council, Stratford Social Services Children’s Team, Stratford Community Education, Stratford Council for Voluntary Service and Stratford Scope.
The project empowered disabled children living in the Stratford-on-Avon District so that they could access community leisure provision during the long Summer Holiday.
In 1998 the above organisations formed a partnership and steering group and came up with the ILEAP Mission Statement. The Steering Group applied to BBC Children in Need and were awarded 3 years funding for a Project Co-ordinator.
In 2000, the Project Co-ordinator began a 3 year contract and was based at Stratford District Council offices. The Co-ordinator recruited a team of part time Youth Workers to assist disabled children living in the Stratford District to enable them to participate in local Summer Schemes.
In 2001 the Steering Group handed over ownership of the project to a Voluntary Management Committee made up from Parents, Leisure Providers, Volunteers and past Youth Workers.
Later that year the project became a registered Charity and a Company limited by Guarantee called the Inclusive Leisure Education Activities Project (ILEAP).
As a Charity the ILEAP Co-ordinator applied for funding from Charitable Trusts and increased the Summer Holiday programme, to cover all the school holidays and also began to deliver a weekly programme of small group activities.
The group programme quickly developed and proved a positive way for members to meet up with their friends and have fun and for ILEAP Staff and Volunteers to learn new skills and support each other.
In 2002 ILEAP received a grant from Barnardo’s to deliver an inclusive play project for disabled children. This project replicated the Stratford Project in the Warwick District and ILEAP changed from a Stratford based Charity to one covering South Warwickshire.
In 2003, ILEAP gave a talk to a group of adults with a learning disability from Stratford College about the work they were doing for Children. The adults asked if ILEAP could help them to access leisure opportunities in the evening and at weekends and so ILEAP empowered them to form a group called Let’s Go.
The Let’s Go project allowed ILEAP to continue to support members once they reached 19 years of age and so at this time ILEAP became a Charity for both Adults and Children.
In 2004, ILEAP received three years funding from the National Lottery to continue to develop the Charity. The ILEAP Co-ordinator became the ILEAP Manager and developed the project using funding received from the statutory sector and various charitable trusts to keep developing services for disabled children and adults.
In 2007, ILEAP became the first organisation in Warwickshire to receive the Bronze level of the Warwickshire Award for Involvement Award. This award showcased how ILEAP had developed services, based on the involvement of its member and their families.
Also in 2007 ILEAP were awarded the Stratford-on-Avon Community Sports Award in recognition of the work the Charity had done in getting disabled young people into Sport.
In 2008 ILEAP received 3 years funding from BBC Children in Need and in 2009 they received 2 years funding from Lloyds TSB Foundation, to pay for the salaries of the ILEAP Youth Workers so that they could support members old and new in their chosen leisure pursuits. This allowed ILEAP to charge a subsidised rate for their group activities of £2.50 per hour.
In 2009 ILEAP were awarded the Silver Level of the Warwickshire Award for Involvement Award in recognition of the continued empowerment of young people taking the lead in the running of the organisation.
In 2010, the ILEAP Charity were supporting over 150 members to access personalised leisure programmes during the school holidays and in the evenings and at weekends.
In 2011, ILEAP began to target people with additional needs, particularly those with a mild / moderate learning disability who were possibly falling through the net of statutory funding and who were therefore very isolated and vulnerable.
By 2012 with an ageing membership ILEAP focused more and more on vulnerable young people and adults, offering them user led leisure opportunities in the local community.
Over the previous 10 years, the ILEAP Charity had received on average approximately £120,000 per year from Warwickshire County Council, for various projects and services, enabling the Charity to offer reduced prices to all.
In 2013, with only one month’s notice, ILEAP were informed that this funding would now be paid directly to individuals and that ILEAP would receive no direct funding from WCC.
On a positive note in 2013, ILEAP were nominated as a Finalist in the Carer of the Year category of the Pride of Warwick District Awards.
At this time, the ILEAP Charity felt that the majority of its members may not be eligible for direct payments and so the Charity searched for alternative funding in order to keep prices affordable for the majority.
During 2014, ILEAP consulted members and increased the number of sessions on offer. ILEAP looked at ways they could work more efficiently and tried to make sure that sessions were well attended. Prices increased, but were subsidised, to keep them affordable for the majority at only £5 per hour.
This strategy, increased our income considerably from client fees, however ILEAP were still spending approximately £60,000 per year more than was coming in.
Fortunately over the previous 10 years, the Charity had been very prudent and accrued considerably free-reserves.
In 2015, the Trustees felt that ILEAP should continue along the same path, utilising free reserves while direct payments began to take more of an effect, as many ILEAP members were still waiting for the system to catch up.
In addition to this approach ILEAP looked at other income streams and began to develop a social enterprise idea called MarketAbility.
MarketAbility had developed from a volunteering project that ILEAP members were involved with.
ILEAP Member Volunteers, volunteered on a Market Stall at the Stratford River Boat Festival, the Leamington Peace Festival and the Kenilworth Festival. It was immediately apparent that the participants gained huge confidence from this volunteering and also awareness of the Charity increased in the local community.
ILEAP initially used the Market Stall as a fundraising and information point, but quickly realised that it had a lot more potential.
A user group discussed what we might be able to sell in order to make a profit for the Charity, whilst giving our members purposeful opportunities that increased their skills and built their confidence. A skills audit was undertaken and identified that sewing and crafts may be the way forward.
With this in mind, ILEAP increased the skill level at arts and crafts sessions and purchased an adapted sewing machine. Pre-cut patterns were prepared and could be easily completed by members, even those with the most complex needs could play a part and take ownership of our products.
Our first product was a simple to make, “shabby chic” tissue holder. These sold really well to Parents and Carers and ILEAP were soon building stock and had items to sell on our Market Stall and so MarketAbility was born.
In 2016, the lease became available at The Kenilworth Centre and thanks to a grant from National Grid “Bringing Communities to Life” ILEAP decided to develop MarketAbility into a new day time service. At the same time, a few of our members were leaving College and had been asking for purposeful activity during the day.
The “Shabby Chic” theme was embraced and we began to introduce new products and very soon our Market Stall was looking more and more professional.
As more members started to join Marketability, the session developed and we started to learn additional skills through activities like cooking, shopping and gardening.
In 2017 MarketAbility became ILEAP MarketAbility Skills4Life, and we hoped that this initiative would not only provide purposeful activities for our members but also become a new income stream enabling ILEAP to become more sustainable.
Thanks to a grant from the Stratford Town Trust, we were able to bring MarketAbility to our Stratford sessions and have a stall at the local craft Market. Similarly, a grant from Kenilworth Town Council and Kenilworth Rotary enabled us to open a little shop and develop the Garden at The Kenilworth Centre and display our products to the wider community. We also sold our first order to a shop in Leamington called the Stagey Fox.
Alongside our new social enterprise initiative, ILEAP have continued to increase capacity and frequency of our weekly sessions and at present deliver over 750 sessions per year, offering over 9000 opportunities for fun and friendship.
In 2018, ILEAP plan to update the website to make it easier for people to book and pay for their activities. This will free up administration time, allowing us to apply for grants for new initiatives.
We hope to make the Charity sustainable by focusing on the price point and capacity and frequency of sessions, and develop fresh user-led projects such as Assisted Holidays, Community Café, Festival Friends, Peer Mentoring.
Rest assured we are doing all we can to sustain our service by submitting grant applications and working towards a social enterprise model in order to keep our services affordable for everyone.
Hopefully our target group will now be receiving their direct payments, promised in 2013, and we have weathered the lack of resources by utilising our free reserves in a strategic and timely way.
We have recently been awarded the 2018 Pride of Stratford “Carer of the Year Award” and were finalists in the 2018 Touch FM Pride of Stratford Award,
If anyone has any time to apply pressure to Councillors, Fundraise, Volunteer, Skill Share, please get in touch. Thank you.