News 2021 - moving forward

Now in June 2021 we are still feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic as it affects all businesses. 

Our community face-to-face services were suspended  however we are pleased to say that we have now met in the park - safely and keeping our social distance - with two of our small groups, and are planning indoor activity sessions - albeit in bigger halls to accommodate us in accordance with the guidance.

We have kept in touch with our groups of Blind and visually impaired people using conferencing and have sent them cards and surprise parcels to keep them feeling positive!

Wetland Centre project - Barnes in Richmond

We are currently looking for funding to help us to deliver a "Sensing the Wild" project of two walks for Blind and visually impaired people at the National Wetland Centre hoping to inspire organisations like this to improve their offering to people with sensory loss.


November 2020

Our thanks to Fal Sarker, a botanist and one of the Friends of South Park Darlington , who spoke at the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland at their recent national Exhibition Conference speaking about the difficulties faced by people with visual impairments on accessing nature. Inspired by our project "Sensing the Wild - connecting visually impaired people to nature" Fal made a fantastic  presentation with many ideas on what can be done to improve people's opportunities and experiences .

Watch this space for the "ripple effect!"

March 2020

This year has been very strange with suspension of our two National Lottery projects in early March.


During the lockdown months we continued to make contact with our groups of Blind and Visually impaired people.  


We came out of lockdown and thought we had time to arrange walks in the parks for our groups who were so looking forward to coming out again - however the rules changed and we went into further restrictions in September which stopped this happening.

ASSC Project- October 2020 to February 2021

Realising we needed to do something to keep people in contact with each other we set about designing a new system of conference calling for people using landline phones - and applied successfully for a Social Enterprise Support Grant to help us to run a pilot project.

News 2019

In 2019 we took people on walks in summer and autumn and in 2020 we managed only  the winter walk before we were shut down in the Spring under Covid-19 restrictions.

We applied for an extension of time of 6 months and will resume for our final walks in April 2021 - we hope!

This project has made a huge impact and the wellbeing outcomes have reached many people.


We were asked to be Social Enterprise in Residence at Teesside University

This has involved Lecturing at the University and Mentoring new business entrepreneurs


Archive News 2018


Inclusive Art Exhibition

"Art Beyond Sight – creating art with a visual impairment"

Our Inclusive Art department was commissioned to set up an exhibition of the work of two of our social groups for the visually impaired which was shown during June 2018 at the Palace Arts Gallery in Redcar, a seaside resort on the coast near Middlesbrough.

The show was really successful and looked great. It included features to improve accessibility such as labels for each art work with audio, a catalogue in Braille, large print information and use of smells and tastes to appeal to the senses. Feedback from the artists, gallery staff and visitors was so positive. See pictures on the Exhibition page.


We are working on the development of the board game with a graduate seconded to us by Teesside University. This is going really well and we are hoping to have a prototype to test out with our consultant groups of visually impaired people in a few months time.  Who would have thought it would be so complicated to make it fully accessible !! But everyone we speak to about it is very positive.


Working closely with the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust we applied  to the HLF in 2018 for the Sensing the Wild project - and were again successful.


The year is getting off to a great start....

GFI has just signed up to be a part of a Creative Fuse pilot in the Tees Valley, working with Teesside University to take forward an idea we have had to produce a new board game with embedded technology to make it more accessible for people with sensory impairments. 

We are also delighted to report that we have been successful with our first Big Lottery funding application and have received an Awards for All small grant to run social activities in the Teesside Region in 2018.

Through this project we will be able to reach many older people with sensory loss who are isolated and not able to access suitable activities in their communities. We will be able to offer one-to-one support and encouragement, and give advice and information on new ways of doing things and on useful gadgets, equipment and adaptations.


News 2017

October 2017

We have just started our new programme of social art and craft activities in Stockton, funded by Volunteering Matters. Feedback is very positive and individuals are telling us they are really enjoying getting together in this way. 

June 2017 - we won a Community Arts Award -

"for an individual or organisation who has dedicated themselves over time to the arts in Stockton-On-Tees for the benefit of others."

January 2017

In January GFI set up a new Art Development department - Inclusive Art - looking at how arts and crafts can be used to help people with a range of abilities and conditions to access and enjoy socially inclusive activities and enable them to express themselves through creativity. 


News 2016

In Saltburn by the Sea there is a need for an access assessment of a local walk and in 2017 we hope to be involved and to make sure the trail is properly marked and promoted, including putting pictures onto the phototrail website.

New Activities Programme

GFI is working with an Associate in London and with local organisations in the NE of England on the development of activities to help people to stay engaged, active and well in their communities.

OT Directory

We have now closed our Independent OT Directory and will signpost people to the COT-IP directory and to Find an OT - both sites run by OTs themselves- read more on our Developments page.
However - recent attempts at finding an OT in the Teesside region have resulted in only one person - so we are going to do some local research and try to increase the numbers.

Clear Needs New Ideas

Pam Bennett, MD of GFI, endorses Clear Needs New Ideas , providing a Testimonial for the Tool and associated Resources, which can be downloaded free - read more about the Tool on our website here or follow this link to the Clear Needs New Ideas website.


GFI sponsors a member of staff to work as a volunteer for the Centre of Excellence for Sensory Impairment charity - known as COESI. Check out their website and see the work that they do.


Archive News 2015

Directory for Independent OTs

For 2015 GFI is focusing on the Directory for Independent OTs and associated businesses which we feel is essential to complement the significant changes occurring in the health and social care system and the need for people to manage their health and wellbeing more independently.

Innovate UK and the Long Term Care Revolution National Challenge

GFI attended the launch of the National Challenge in London in November and hopes to be involved in the next stages of development.

On this page GFI has expressed interest in looking at the need for a " National accessible "interface"- Website/ Facebook/ high street outlet/space in big stores- using videos/holograms to showcase options and solutions for independent living" 


Archive News 2014

One Precious Life goes live in Liverpool!

The One Precious Life project emerged from stage one of the Long Term Care Revolution initiative funded by the Government Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK) and was successfully trialled operationally in Liverpool between June and September 2014.

Commencing in January 2014 the project included the recruitment of a team of young graduates and delivery of an intensive training course. Tom Dawson of Rescon and Pam Bennett of Going For Independence then set up an office in Liverpool and mentored the One Precious Life Coaches as they promoted the new service and recruited participants to the project.

See the short video :- and take a look at the website

OPL Coaches provided a personal service tailored to individual need for people with long term conditions, helping them to take control, improve their health and wellbeing and get their lives back on track.


Updated page on Falls Prevention

We have updated the Resources page on Falls Prevention - have a look and download the PDF /Resources


News Archive 2013

In September 2013 Pam Bennett attended the TSB Long Term Care Revolution Sandpit. Working with a group of forward thinkers and innovators led to a meeting of minds with Tom Dawson of Rescon, resulting in the design of a service with the potential to make a significant difference for people who have experienced a health crisis or who have a Long Term Condition. Our aim is to give people the motivation, skills and knowledge needed for them to help themselves to be healthy and active and to effectively change their future. 

The lead organisation is Rescon, a research, development and consulting company with a focus on solving complex biomedical systems problems relating to human performance. Rescon, working in partnership with GFI, was successful with the project application for the 9-month pilot programme which started in January 2014. Outcomes for participants will be carefully monitored and evaluated, looking at how the service can help to keep people active and better able to manage their conditions.

IBSCIC - Independence Brokerage Service Community Interest Company

Pam Bennett of GFI has been working with Jon Hines, an entrepreneur working for community benefit,  who has now successfully launched a new brokerage service to help people to manage the stressful process of adapting their home.
The organisation has also achieved the Government TrustMarkUK status as a scheme operator. IBSCIC plan to put a link on their website to the GFI Directory to enable people to access an independent Occupational Therapist and the extra advice and support they may need to get the right adaptation and/or equipment to meet their needs.

Check out their new website at

Devices for Dignity

GFI worked with Devices for Dignity, a Health Technology Collaborative based in Sheffield, to help to raise awareness of unmet equipment needs and potential solutions to help people to maintain their dignity and independence in the community, with the aim of bringing them to the attention of manufacturers for development into new technologies.

Doorstep Crime Project

Going For Independence is a member of the Centre of Excellence for Sensory Impairment (COESI) charity which was successful in a bid for Big Lottery funding for 2012-2013 to develop information about Doorstep Crime Prevention in accessible formats for people with sensory impairments. GFI is working with COESI to develop the project and to promote the information for use by carers and OTs working in the community.


News Archive 2012

Partnership work

GFI is a social enterprise which receives no government funding and is experienced in the development of income generation and sustainability. We are working with a number of partners to raise funds for projects this year:-

  • with the Centre of Excellence for Sensory Impairment (COESI) and JAM Total Sport Ltd on a Multi-sport / Thai boxing bid for young deaf and hard of hearing people
  • with Croydon Neighbourhood Care Association and COESI on a project for older people to help them to manage money more effectively, guard against financial scams and abuse and cope better with cold homes and rising fuel prices
  • with Safer Neighbourhood groups and COESI to produce accessible information for older people with sensory impairment about doorstep crime

Contact GFI if you would like to know more about any of these.

Latest news about the PIP Assessments

Capita and ATOS have been announced as preferred bidders for the PIP Assessment contracts across England and Wales. 

Going For Independence fully supports the social model of disability and was pleased to be consulted by Capita in their bid preparation stage. In order to best meet the needs of disabled people, we are further prepared to work with Capita to support the design and delivery of the PIP Assessments. Going For Independence does not believe the PIP Assessment criteria, as determined by the DWP, is correct or acceptable in its present form and considers that the outcomes may severely affect disabled peoples’ independence and health, and lead to poverty and social isolation. In turn this will put inevitable strain on social and health services; wherever possible GFI will endeavour to influence improvements in the assessment criteria for the benefit of the claimant.

National Conferences 2012

Assist UK -

Pam Bennett, the MD of Going For Independence, gave a presentation about getting down to business at the Assist UK Annual Conference in January 2012.
Pam spoke about the opportunities and challenges that face existing charities and about making the transition to an income generating model.


The GFI  Management Team - Pam with OTs Yvonne Wynter and Nerys Severn - will run a seminar at NAIDEX in May this year for OTs who are interested in the options of self employment and working in a social enterprise. 

NHS Social Enterprise Conference

Mo Girach, Strategic Consultant to the NHS and Government specialising in Practice Based Commissioning , Polyclinics and Social Enterprise, hosts the annual NHS Social Enterprise Conference and has asked GFI to speak about setting up and running an independent social enterprise in the health and social care arena. 
This event will be later in the summer - we will add the date and more details when they are available.

PIP- the Personal Independence Payment benefit

As potential assessors for the new benefit payment, Occupational Therapists have a vested interest in the impending changeover by Government to the new Personal Independence Payment which will, from April 2013, replace working age disability living allowance (DLA). 
GFI feels very strongly about the potential difficulties that could be faced by some people who may lose benefit entitlement under the new system, and where possible we want to be part of their network of support and will campaign for fair assessments and equality of access to independent living. 
PIPs will have two components: a daily living component (which has similarities to the current care component in the Disability Living Allowance -DLA) and a mobility component. 
Part 4 of the Welfare Reform Bill 2011contains proposals to introduce the new Payments including changing the way assessments are done, and it is Health Professionals including Occupational Therapists who will be recruited to carry out new assessments against the PIP criteria and re- assessments of people on existing DLA and Mobility benefits. 
The current criteria for assessments are available on the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) website


News Archive 2011

GFI is nominated for an Award- September 2011

Mo Girach,  special adviser to the NHS Alliance on social enterprise, mutuals and cooperatives, has been a strategic consultant for Going For Independence for the last 2 years. Mo has nominated us for a Phillip Baxendale Award for Excellence in Employee Ownership, co-sponsored by Baxi Partnership and the Employee Ownership Association.

Mo has put us forward for the People and Culture Award: To celebrate the organisation that boasts a true culture of employee ownership, including transparency and meaningful engagement with employees, and driving notable activity to strengthen a culture of productive partnership.

"The key to the model for GFI is that all the people involved and working with GFI are self -employed. The structure involves associates, individual volunteers and voluntary advisory groups, comprising of key stakeholders including customers of the service. These groups discuss the business and its development to ensure that services evolve in a model of productive partnership for the benefit of all customers, whether individuals, charities, businesses or professionals. In exchange the participants gain the latest knowledge about equipment and access GFI resources and information and benefit from the links to local and national organisations.

Although there are no "employees" as such, when project or contract funding is secured and opportunities arise for paid work, GFI Associates are commissioned as appropriate. This is an innovative social enterprise model and it demonstrates the culture of the organisation which has a flat structure where all those involved have equal status, and where overheads are kept to a minimum to make services more readily accessible and affordable for those who need them most - a real community interest company."

GFI gives a presentation at the University of Northampton

On the 30th March 2011 the MD of GFI, Pam Bennett, together with OT Associates Nerys-May Hughes  and Yvonne Wynter, attended the School of Health at the University of Northampton  to give a presentation on the Going For Independence model of social enterprise for Occupational Therapists.

The event was a great success and it is clear there is a need for more information on alternative work options for OTs and for support for Independent Practitioners. GFI is developing an online Directory and an Association to help to provide this support.

cot conference