Our charity of the month supports people with learning disabilities and/or autism. We find out about the triumphs and challenges of daily life at the charity.

MacIntyre, which scooped The Good Web Guide Awards’ charity website gong in November 2019, has been helping to meet the complex needs of people with learning disabilities and/or autism for 53 years. Founded by Kenneth Newton-Wright in Bedfordshire in 1966, the organisation emerged as a deeply personal response to being told that his son would have to spend his days in an institution. Able to see that his child’s life could and should have brighter horizons than that, he raised the money to set up MacIntyre; today, via its extraordinary work, it helps some 1,200 people across England and Wales.

We caught up with Claire Kennedy, MacIntyre’s Head of Marketing, to drill down into the charity’s founding ethos, how things have changed its five decades, and why she’ll always cherish the moment she watched one of the people MacIntyre supports dance with the pros at a gala ball.

Congratulations! MacIntyre won best charity website at the 2019 Good Web Guide Awards. We were delighted for you. What does the accolade mean for you?

We were particularly proud of the recognition of all the thought that had gone into the structure and design of the website. We didn’t have a big budget to work from and have made a conscious effort to ensure the site is kept fresh, with new blogs and news items.

We loved your website of course, but were also deeply impressed by the work that you do. Can you give us an overview of MacIntyre’s mission and work?

MacIntyre’s vision is for all people with a learning disability to live a life that make sense to them. Many of the people we support have very complex needs so we know this will mean different things for different people.

Can you give an indication of the spectrum of people who use MacIntyre?

MacIntyre supports over 1,200 children, young people and adults with a learning disability and/or autism. Some of the people we support have a mild learning disability and may live alone with just a bit of support to do their shopping or manage their money, while others may have more complex needs and require staff support at all times.

MacIntyre first opened in 1966. Can you tell us about the history – who founded the charity and what gave them the impetus?

MacIntyre was founded by the Kenneth Newton-Wright, the father of a child who had a learning disability. Ken and his wife were told their child would spend his life in an institution. He wanted more for his son, so he raised the money to buy MacIntyre’s first house and to set up the charity.

How has MacIntyre changed in its 53-year history?

The underlying values and ethos of MacIntyre haven’t changed since 1966: for all people to live a life to their potential. The main change has been to the size of the organisation which started with six children in Bedfordshire and now supports over 1,200 people across England and Wales.

Can you tell us a bit about the team?

We have a really small marketing team of two and a half people. We manage the charity’s website; social media; staff intranet; printed communications; plan and book our presence at sector events, including speaking opportunities; and submit awards nominations like this one!

You help those with autism, learning disabilities and dementia, amongst other conditions. What, would you say, are the chief requirements that you look for in anyone who wishes to work at MacIntyre?

For most people who work directly to provide support at MacIntyre we always say that no qualifications or experience are needed – it’s more important for people to have the right values and behaviours, as all necessary training is provided.

Is there such a thing as a typical day?

In the marketing team, there are a few routine things that we would do most days – for example preparing and posting news items, checking social media for any responses needed etc, but our days may also include a visit to one of our projects to find out what they are doing to ensure we are sharing a variety of stories across our media.

What’s the best thing about working at MacIntyre?

No matter what role you have, you feel like you’re making a difference to the lives of the people we support. In marketing we do this by sharing and celebrating their stories and achievements.

Have there been any standout moments that have really stayed with you?

So many moments, from interviewing the first person we support to work at our central office to watching two people we support (one of whom uses a wheelchair) perform a dance routine at a gala ball with two professional dancers.

What are the challenges that you face as a charity?

Funding has been the major challenge in our sector for a number of years, affecting our day-to-day budgets, as well as our recruitment activity.

Social care has been highlighted as one the areas in need of most investment by almost every political party. How has this lack of funding affected MacIntyre?

The majority of MacIntyre’s funding comes from local, education and health authorities. As their funds are also tight, our annual cycle of seeking fee increases just to stand still becomes ever more important. For example, whilst we fully support the National Minimum Wage increase of 6.2 per cent for those of our staff who will benefit from this, we need to ensure this additional cost is met by our funders.

How would you like to see things change with regard to support of those with learning disabilities within the next ten years?

Many people with disabilities who have previously received support are no longer eligible for funding, but are also not in a position to secure employment. MacIntyre, along with a number of other charities, are seeking new ways of working to provide options for those who are ‘falling through the funding gap’.

What can any readers who wish to support MacIntyre do to usefully help? Are there any special fundraisers to get involved with?

There are a number of ways that people can get involved with MacIntyre from offering expertise to helping at fundraising events. Do contact volunteer@macintyrecharity.org for more information.

And finally, what have you got on the horizon for 2020?

In autumn 2018 we launched our new website and in June 2019 we launched our staff intranet, so the main theme for our Marketing team in 2020 is consolidation.


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