Special event showcases success of disability charity over three decades

DANES celebration event Lowestoft

Mayor Alan Green and Trish Riches with Peter Aldous, Beth Tyrell, Margaret Oldman, Gwen Parsons, Debbie Amor, Gemma Austin and Pauline Wilcox at the event. - Credit: Mick Howes

It has provided a vital advice service for more than 35 years.

And a charitable organisation has marked a memorable occasion with a special celebration.

Having helped and provided support to thousands living with disabilities across Lowestoft and North East Suffolk over the past 35 years, Disability Advice North East Suffolk - or D.I.A.L. as it used to be known - held a celebratory event last Thursday, September 23 at the Hotel Victoria.

Recalling the beginning of DIAL in 1986, Margaret Oldham, MBE, chairman of Disability Advice North East Suffolk, said: “I had just had some operations and I met Jill Brough and she asked if I would like to help start a charity to help those with disabilities.

DIAL founders Margaret Oldham Jill Brough DANES 35-years

DIAL founders Margaret Oldham and Jill Brough at the DANES 35-year celebration event. - Credit: Mick Howes

"There were five of us, all with disabilities at the beginning, who got together to offer information.

"We were initially based at the Red Cross Centre in Kirkley Cliff, where it was just telephone advice to start with.

"We then moved into a former butcher’s shop in Kimberley Road and from there we set up the Waveney Centre for Independent Living In Rotterdam Road.

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"That is still our home although the Centre for Independent Living was subsequently closed along with others in the county by Suffolk County Council.

"However, we are still based there, and our wonderful staff have worked all the way through the pandemic, manning phone lines to give support and advice and to help with form filling.”

Addressing those attending the event, new manager Trish Riches said: “I would like to praise and thank all the founders, staff and trustees who have been involved in the charity and enabled it to grow over the last 35 years.

DANES Service User Group Lowestoft

The DANES Service User Group at the 35-year celebration event. - Credit: Mick Howes

"Going forward we have set up a service user group who meet bi-monthly and they bring forward their ideas and issues to help us to identify projects that we could do in the community – so it is driven by the users.

"We are also proud of our ‘Workability’ project where we work with our clients with learning difficulties to find permanent work or volunteering positions in conjunction with the job centre and the college.”

Gwen Parsons Lowestoft DANES

Gwen Parsons (Trustee & Treasurer) at the DANES 35-years celebration event. - Credit: Mick Howes

Trustee Gwen Parsons said: “We launched DANES in April 2019.

"We took the opportunity during lockdown to think about our future direction by looking at a three-year business plan.

"It helped us to focus on our charitable objective which is to help people with disabilities in Lowestoft and Waveney so that they may lead active and fulfilling lives, integrated in society.”

DANES 35-year celebration cake

The DANES 35-year celebration cake. - Credit: Mick Howes

With a cake specially made for the occasion, Waveney MP Peter Aldous also spoke at the celebration event that was attended by the mayor of Lowestoft, Alan Green.