People with learning disabilities came together with council tenants and leaseholders as The Barnet Group held its first ever customer awards.

The awards were held to celebrate the achievements of Barnet Homes residents and Your Choice Barnet service users and carers over the past 12 months.

Award winners included two carers of people with learning disabilities, good neighbours who go the extra mile to look after others at their sheltered accommodation, and an older resident who has turned from an ‘IT dinosaur’ to encouraging other older people to learn how to use computers.

Guests were also able to hear from one of The Barnet Group’s first apprentices, Myles Duffy, who spoke about how the opportunity has benefited him and his young family, leading to employment at the Grahame Park Housing Office.

The award winners all received trophies from The Barnet Group’s Chair, Terry Rogers, at the ceremony at Hendon Hall Hotel on Thursday 21 March.

The winners, together with text from the nominations, are below:

  • Good Neighbour Award – Elaine Healey and Arthur Davis of Drummond House, N12.

They have constantly been looking out for the other residents for many years now. If they haven’t seen someone for a while they’ll check on them. Miss Healey has often escorted residents to hospital when they have no one to go with them. Mr Davis collects the papers for six residents who can’t get out every morning (even in the snow). Every resident knows who to turn to when the sheltered housing officer is not on site and it makes them feel safe and happy that Elaine and Arthur are around.

  • Volunteer of the year (under 25) -Briony Parker ofGrahamePark, NW9

This young person is 24 years old, has two children and is a full-time student but has been giving up her spare time to volunteer. She has been volunteering for over a year and has never really been praised for all her hard work. She has been volunteering as a family support worker to Barnet residents, helping out at the local school with workshops and school trips and fundraising with her children for local charities, including children in need. She is a role-model to her two children and the community.

  • Volunteer of the year (over 25)-Mrs BuckofDerbyHouse, NW4

Mrs Buck is a unique volunteer and has been the rock of the Barnet IT Experience (BITE) club for over 8 years, despite being her husband’s carer. She has come from referring to herself as “a millennium dinosaur” when introduced to a computer, to being a champion and model volunteer for the club. Often when an elderly person resists using a computer, I refer them to Mrs Buck who introduces them to Solitaire on the computer and builds their confidence and then trains them in basic IT skills. She has written a practice manual for Basic IT skills and is committed to making more elderly people IT literate.

  • Resident group of the year – The Grange Association, N2

Four women formed this group last year to tackle issues on the Grange Estate. They worked extremely hard to organise the first community day for the estate. Over 300 residents attended and it was hugely successful in bringing the community together. The group meet once a month to discuss local issues that need addressing, have visited homes and delivered flyers advertising Barnet Homes services. They truly deserve recognition.

  • Striving forIndependence-Paul Ford ofNewSouthgateN11

Paul, who is partially sighted and uses Sign Language, moved into his own flat six months ago and has coped brilliantly. Paul is learning many new skills and is looking forward to trying his hand at cooking. Paul has also learnt to use new equipment for the Deaf to help him live independently and feel more confident on his own. He has started using public transport and regularly travels about which is a major achievement for him. We are very proud of what Paul has achieved in such a short space of time and have every confidence he will continue to strive forward in leaps and bounds.

  • Community Volunteering -Samantha Gray ofMill Hill NW7

A few years ago Sam was very shy, quiet and avoided eye contact. Now after work experience at Your Choice Barnet she continues to volunteer three days a week. As I write she is singing and laughing loudly in the kitchen – full of life.

What a turn around – she has joined the local gym and takes pride in her appearance and has so much confidence in herself now that she happily tells people that we can’t get her to shut up now.  She returned toBarnetCollegefor a Makaton course, so is able to communicate using sign language. She is a breath of fresh air and a great example of how volunteering works for both the volunteer and the organisation.

  • Health & Wellbeing Award -Michael Isaacs of Edgware, HA8

Michael has made outstanding progress over the last year and a half to overcome behaviour and increase his independence and opportunities.

He has adopted more roles and responsibilities and enjoys the positive feedback as a consequence. He now volunteers at a local Oxfam shop and is learning to travel on his own.

He is part of the Speaking Up sub-group of Barnet Council’s Partnership Learning Disability Parliament. He performs in concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra musicians at the Barbican and runs his own sports session with his peers. In his own words: “My life is just getting better and better.”

  • Carer Contribution Award – joint winnersCarmelLinton ofBushey HeathandJulia Mehmet of Daneland, EN4

Julia has a daughter who uses two Your Choice Barnet services and is her main carer. Julia takes her daughter horse riding weekly and is seen regularly with her using local facilities in Barnet. She ensures that Gemma participates in all family celebrations and also takes her abroad at least once a year for a holiday in the sunshine.

Carmelis a mum who was very heavily involved in all aspects of her daughter’s life. Both mother and daughter have moved, but are just as close despite living in different homes.Carmelhas been very willing to meet up with other parents to talk about her journey and these informal meetings have proved mutually invaluable.