Dave Smith: Catalyst’s happiest resident

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West Ealing resident Dave Smith claims to be our happiest resident. We caught up with him to find out why he’s so happy and how he’s now the voice for our disabled residents.

“Ever since I moved into my Catalyst home, I’ve been so happy. I must be Catalyst happiest resident! I’ve always been treated well and with respect. But I know others haven’t been so lucky and I always fight for them.”

This determination to represent others is why Dave joined the Disability Forum, which he’s been chair of for the past four years. The forum is very close to Dave’s heart – he himself has been living with a disability for over 50 years.

How Dave’s life changed

“I woke up one morning with a blinding headache and my legs were stiff. When I tried to get up, my legs wouldn’t hold my weight. The doctors said I had caught polio. Then 24 hours later, I couldn’t breathe and was put on an iron lung. Since then my life changed.” Dave is wheelchair bound and needs to carry a respirator at all times because he has difficulties breathing.

Before he developed his disability, Dave was going to join the Royal Marines. He even received his calling papers and the British Armed Forces had already paid him his first week’s wages. But Dave has never let his disability hold him back. When he found out he couldn’t join the Royal Marines, Dave applied for his previous job as diesel mechanic for George Wimpey (now Taylor Wimpey). He worked there for 42 years up until he retired.

A bigger voice

After he left his job, Dave didn’t just enjoy the easy life. He wanted to use his experience and knowledge to help others. That’s why Dave got involved at Catalyst and urges other residents to do the same.

Dave said: “On your own you are just a lone voice. Collectively we have a bigger voice. That’s why people should work together and speak up. Catalyst isn’t the enemy. They will work with you to put things right – you just need to tell them.”

Making things happen

The Disability Forum has recently worked with us to improve the way in which adaptations are provided for disabled people. By working with the forum we’ve developed a new aids and adaptations policy, and trained our teams to carry out minor adaptations.

In the past the forum has highlighted the varying needs of vulnerable and disabled residents. As a result, we are developing a new approach so it’s easier for us to identify vulnerable and disabled customers when they contact us. We’ll then be able to tailor our services to the needs of those customers.

Praise for fellow residents

One of the main reasons why the Disability Forum is so successful is because of the hard work of its members, especially the work of secretary Suzanne Bull MBE. As well as helping to run the forum, Suzanne is CEO of the charity Attitude is Everything, an organisation which aims to improve deaf and disabled people’s access to live music by working with audiences, artists and the music industry.

“Members of the Disability Forum work with other residents and Catalyst to make sure the voices of disabled residents are heard. Suzanne is amazing and has so much energy. She does a full-time job and in the evenings works her socks off for the forum.” So what’s next on the Disability Forum’s agenda? “We want pursue more housing for disabled residents and we will be working with Catalyst so they can provide homes that suit the needs of their most vulnerable and disabled customers,” says Dave.

If you would like to join the Disability Forum contact Elise Jones on 0300 456 2099 or getinvolved@chg.org.uk. To get involved at Catalyst visit the resident involvement section of our website.