Thank you Nessy!

The Cascade Foundation and its trustees, learners, volunteers and Cascade ambassadors would like to thank the Nessy team for their support and the help they’ve given us at the Cascade Health and Learning Hub in Doncaster.

Our CEO has been using this software for many years with young children and training providers across the country.

The challenge has been to find software to help adults with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, head injury and other disabilities.

Last year we were running a pilot scheme with Nessy software to see how adults would adapt to this type of learning. 23 adult learners signed up for this and were coming in at a pre-entry level. Many had no idea about their disability, they could not use a computer or read or write and were very low in self-esteem and confidence. Many had suffered depression, social isolation and loneliness by having a disability that was not supported within the community. They ranged from 18 to 65 years of age, and many had been on benefits for most of their lives.

We worked on Nessy reading & spelling and Nessy fingers which was chosen to help our learners to touch type. Due to the requirements of Universal Credits, claimants need to research for jobs for 35 hours a week and complete an online job journey. This gives information on how they are applying for work during that week. At the start of these Universal Credits, many of our learners who were unable to either have access or use a computer were being sanctioned, losing their benefit pay. This resulted in increased poverty and led to us fighting many court cases that year.

We supplied each of these claimants with a mentor or volunteer to give them one- to-one support to help them fill in these online journeys. Some only managed to type the heading Cascade but reported back to their personal advisor at the job centre how excited they were to log on to the computer and job search for the first time.

The Nessy software is fun, taking the fear or negative experiences they may have had with learning when they were young. We found that some of the learners would sit for hours and play with the software, unaware how much they were learning. Reports were carried out weekly on how much time was spent on learning, including reading and spelling. This was a great motivator for the start of every Monday morning for our learners to join in a group discussion and engage with each other. They now feel less alone with their learning disability, sharing their problems with others and knowing that we all share the same DNA.

We have just gained a contract with Doncaster MBC, funding from Awards for All lottery, South Yorkshire PCC and Moto services. We are working very closely with our local community Grant Officer from Asda, Caroline Hall, to help us with more resources for our Hub, to support as many learners as we can to have a better understanding of their learning and to help prepare them to progress on into college or employment.
Thank you to all the Nessy team for their support and kindness in this community project and helping us to moving lives on!

Watch this space to see how many learners take the challenge this year!

Prevention is better than cure

Last autumn we received a wonderful email from Major Stan M Hardy, Deputy Lieutenant, West Yorkshire  and we wanted to share it with you. Thanks so much for your support Stan!

“Prevention is better than cure is an adage which is almost as old as the hills but no less true for being old. It’s more than a proverb,  it’s a principle which should be the hallmark of every legitimate human endeavour and certainly in service planning. It is without doubt the guiding principle of CASCADE and the team which so successfully pursues the aim of giving disadvantaged people a second chance.

“It is no co-incidence that 70% of those men and women serving custodial sentences are functionally illiterate – not because they lack intelligence but rather that they have a functional disability such as dyslexia. Having spent their childhood and early youth being dismissed as “thick, stupid and incapable”, they begin to believe it. Their frustration at being excluded and effectively condemned to uselessness creates anxiety and resentment and so frequently a chemical dependency and criminality follows. Hence 70% of offenders in custody also have a mental health challenge and a dependency. A case of the “blinding flash of the obvious” if anyone in authority cared to look.

“CASCADE successfully helps such people by treating them as individuals and addressing each one’s individual literacy obstacles. CASCADE never writes off anyone but assiduously supports each individual through learning to read and write, through job interview role play, rebuilding confidence and self-respect weaning them off dependency and into real, satisfying work. Perhaps most important CASCADE breaks the cycle of offending,

“CASCADE’s ethos and work is based on the very simple premise that everyone can succeed with just a little but genuine support. The skills CASCADE imparts to its service users are critical but CASCADE also goes that extra mile since it also gives them support, time and hope, something the official structure doesn’t seem to recognise as important.” 

Major Stan M Hardy, Deputy Lieutenant, West Yorkshire 

September 2018

Commissioner Community Grant Scheme funding

The Commissioner Community Grant Scheme has offered us a fund of £2,500 to train 10 ex-offenders as part of our ‘Cascade Jumpstart into Safer Communities’ project.

This fund will help 10 ex-offenders to improve their literacy and numeracy and will significantly improve their employability, moving them closer to work. This will include:

  • Literacy where learners have never understood their own learning style, thus not achieving at school.
  • ADHD and those who have suffered life changing head injuries or other physical injuries.
  • Those who have been unable to fit into society through their own personal experiences, leading to loneliness and feeling of isolation.
  • Ex-prisoners who need to be able to return to the community and general lifestyles such as using public transport finding a doctor or dentist surgery.

It is our mission to use a new approach to support and educate disengaged ex-offenders and others living within the local community with specific learning difficulties to transform their lives and reduce reoffending. Our project within HMP Doncaster “Dyslexia Behind Bars II”, uncovered a high percentage of prisoners with learning difficulties: 53% had a reading and writing age of four years, 52% of the families of prisoners had learning difficulties and 72% of prisoners had not had a job for many years.

Our interview and course ‘Cascade Personal and Social Development for people with learning disabilities’ runs for six weeks. During this time. we provide a multi-sensory approach to teaching using our own developed unique and innovational programs which are delivered to suit each learner’s individual needs using specialist designed IT software.

All our learners develop their skills, behaviours and attitudes through direct instruction and added support as necessary which enables learners to learn and grow in self-knowledge, social interaction, physical and emotional health with self-determination through our project-based activities.

We improve the numeracy and literacy of learners so that they can become self-sufficient. Evidence from employees such as Marks & Spencer shows that employees recruited from disadvantaged groups demonstrate low turnover rates than the wider workforce. The higher value placed on having a job with the desire to stay out of prison often means ex-offenders have high levels of loyalty and retention.

In Doncaster there are four prisons within a 10-mile radius and we found that 75% of employees will not hire these claimants because of their previous convictions. Joe (not his real name) had been volunteering for three days a week for three years with a local charity; their policy was not to employ anex-offender. After nine sessions with Cascade he decided to leave the other charity and is now understanding how dyslexia is stopping people getting their CSCS card. He is also helping in our community café and attending meetings with potential funders. The skills he had developed whilst in prison were overlooked because he was unable to find employment due to his criminal record.

Huge thanks to the South Yorkshire Police and Commissioner for funding this project giving 10 ex-prisoners the opportunity to change their lives!

Moto in the Community Trust gives us a boost!

Moto in the Community Trust, the charitable arm of Moto Hospitality, the UK’s leading motorway service area provider, has made a donation of £1,000 to The Cascade Foundation.

The donation will enable our Cascade Foundation mentors to teach and support even more learners who have dyslexia, head injury or other learning difficulties and support them into employment or volunteering.

Commenting on the donation, Jackie Hewitt-Main OBE, chief executive and founder of The Cascade Foundation said: “I can’t thank the Moto in the Community Trust team enough for this invaluable donation to Cascade. It will help us transform the lives of a wide variety of individuals who come to us for our unique and highly effective method of sensory learning.

Moto in the Community support The Cascade Foundation

Moto in the Community support The Cascade Foundation

“Many people we work with have been out of work for several years, including Edwin who came to collect the cheque with us. He hasn’t had a job for five years after struggling with his reading & writing. Within a matter of weeks of being mentored by the Cascade team he has found a job and is a totally different person – he’s got his confidence back and is very happy to be once more making a contribution to society.”

A spokesman for Moto in the Community Trust said: “Our charity was established to help make a difference to the lives of people who live in the areas around our network of motorway service areas. Each of our sites has chosen a local charity to support so we were delighted to help The Cascade Foundation, which is the chosen charity of staff at our Doncaster site.”

The People’s Projects 2019

The Cascade Community Café is open for business!

Our very first community café is now open and providing employment and work experience opportunities for local people with learning disabilities and head injuries.

The Cascade Community Café is based at our Health & Learning Hub on Marshgate in Doncaster and is run by experienced chef, Paul Sanderson, and Cascade learners.

Following a unprovoked attack whilst walking through Doncaster with his two children two years ago, Paul sustained life-changing head injuries and has not been able to work since. Before the brutal assault, Paul had forged a highly successful career in the catering and hospitality industry.

“Ever since we launched the Cascade Health & Learning Hub last summer, we’ve wanted to add a catering element,” explains Jackie Hewitt-Main OBE, founder and chief executive of The Cascade Foundation.

Continues Jackie: “When I met Paul a few months ago and we got chatting, I realised he was the perfect person to lead the Cascade Community Café. Not only does Paul have a personal understanding of what life is like with a head injury, he also has a huge amount of talent and ambition which is just what we need to drive this project forward.”

The Cascade Community Café is open for business

The Cascade Community Café is open for business!

The Cascade Community Café is open for breakfast and lunch from 8.30pm to 1.30pm Monday to Friday. Customers can choose from a tasty menu that includes a full English breakfast with two sausages, two slices of bacon, egg, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns, beans and toast plus a drink all for just £2.90, jacket potatoes, fresh salads and sandwiches, plus main meals such as meatballs with spaghetti (£2.85) or traditional fish & chips and chicken curry both priced at £3.90. Every dish is created using locally sourced produce.

Adds Jackie: “Paul and the team have worked so hard to get the café up and running and more and more people are coming in every day. We’ve had some excellent feedback from people and lots of suggestions about what they’d like to see on the menu as well as the idea of selling fresh coffee which is something we’re looking into.”

All of the proceeds from food sold in the café is put straight back into the charity to fund other learning projects and help grow other commercial ventures designed to create much needed funds.

Concludes Jackie: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so I’d encourage anyone living or working in the area to pop in and sample some of the delicious food that Paul is cooking. And, by doing so, you’ll be contributing directly to the continuation of the work we’re all doing here at The Cascade Foundation to transform people’s lives.”


Michael cascades with success

Michael Thompson will never forget the day he met Jackie Hewitt-Main OBE, founder of The Cascade Foundation, during the very first week of his 14-month custodial sentence at HMP Doncaster.

The History graduate from Greater Manchester stood out from many of his fellow prisoners with his University education and calm, friendly demeanour. Within five minutes of chatting to Michael about her innovative prison project to teach inmates to read and write, she’d realised his potential and recruited him to start mentoring prisoners under her guidance.

“Working with Jackie to teach individuals to read and write gave me a unique insight into why people end up in prison,” explains Michael. “I started to understand that a person’s background could dramatically affect their chances and realised very quickly that if someone doesn’t have any tangible level of literacy or numeracy, the more likely they are to offend.”

Jackie Hewitt-Main OBE, founder of The Cascade Foundation with Michael Thompson from Rite Trax

Jackie Hewitt-Main OBE, founder of The Cascade Foundation with Michael Thompson from Rite Trax

By taking on a role of teaching alongside Jackie, Michael was able to apply his own skills to help many others as well as himself. He embarked on a number of training and learning courses, gaining qualifications in Customer Service, Counselling and Business Studies. He also completed a Level 3 ‘Award in Education’ to further improve his teaching proficiency.

“I’ve been a musician since I was about 13 years-old,” adds Michael. “Music is my passion and before I went to prison, I regularly used to attend gig nights in Sheffield where I was studying. Spending time assisting Jackie and teaching others, I decided I’d like to turn my passion into a business and, ultimately, work with young people and offenders to enable them to create and showcase music.”

After his release, Michael did an enterprise course with The Prince’s Trust. He worked hard at his entrepreneurial objective and, with support from his friends in Manchester and Sheffield, he established a social enterprise – Rite Trax – with three of his peers.

“Rite Trax is a platform for music, art, design and poetry with a focus on an underground creative culture,” says Michael. “We’ve got our own premises at Castle Market in Sheffield and we’re working with artists, musicians, painters and writers from all over the UK. We have an event space that holds up to 100 people where we stage music events, shows and exhibitions, and we recently delivered a street party for over 500 people for Sheffield City Council as part of the regeneration of the Castlegate area of the city.”

As well as managing Rite Trax, Michael is a Young Ambassador for The Prince’s Trust and he also volunteers for several local drug and alcohol awareness charities.

“Just like Jackie, I want to keep people out of prison and give young people something meaningful and creative to do with their time,” concludes Michael. “We all have problems in our lives and Rite Trax gives people the space to be themselves for a few hours and, hopefully, provides them with the inspiration and motivation they need to achieve their own goals.”