No one left out of life: Sense’s Strategy for 2021-2026

Foreword by Richard Kramer, CEO and Justin Molloy, Chair

Sense exists to support people living with complex disabilities, and those who are deafblind, to take part in life and enjoy the meaningful connections that spark joy. 

Our work has never been more vital. 

Thousands of people with complex disabilities, and those who are deafblind, are still missing out on the vital support they need. And, since first introducing this strategy in 2019, the pandemic has made things harder. It’s made existing barriers worse and exposed new issues.

But throughout 2020, Sense has adapted, doing things in new ways and reaching people in new places.

Now, we want to go further. Our goal is to support ten times more people living with complex disabilities by 2026. That’s 50,000 more people over 5 years. But to do that, we need everyone connected to Sense to come together in support. 

Our refreshed strategy is a call to action to everyone who shares our vision, that no one, no matter how complex their disabilities, should be isolated, left out, or unable to fulfil their potential. 

Everyone connected to Sense, be it our staff, volunteers or supporters, and of course, the families and individuals we support, are urged to come together in pursuit of our shared aim.  

Now is the moment to make a difference.

Richard Kramer, CEO of Sense and Sense International

Justin Molloy, Chair of Sense

About Sense

Over the last 60 years, Sense has developed an unrivalled depth of knowledge, skill and expertise to help people with a broad range of complex disabilities, and those who are deafblind, to learn to communicate and express themselves.  We help people to develop the skills to enjoy everyday things like having a conversation, enjoying friendships and living independently.

Our staff offer personalised support through our centres, holidays and short breaks, in people’s own homes and in the community. We are here for everyone who needs us, for as long as they need us: providing early intervention for children, helping young people access education, and supporting the transition into adulthood and beyond.  In addition to practical support, we also offer information to families and campaign for the rights of people with complex disabilities to take part in life.


Deafblindness is a combination of sight and hearing impairment that affects how you communicate, access information and get around. Being deafblind does not necessarily mean that you are totally deaf and totally blind – most individuals have some residual sight and/or hearing. Deafblindness is a unique disability because of the combined impact of having more than one sensory impairment.

Complex disabilities – or complex needs – are descriptions used if you are living with two or more disabilities and require high levels of support with aspects of your daily life. You may need support from a range of health and social care services.  You may have complex needs from birth, or following illness or injury, or they may develop as you get older.

Developing our strategy

The aspirations and lived experiences of the people we support drive everything we do, and have underpinned and informed all the choices we have made. We have consulted extensively with our staff, trustees, volunteers, and supporters. We have conducted a wide range of research and analysis to help us decide which areas to focus on. And we will continue the conversations to keep us on track and accountable.

Our strategy has been developed in partnership with our sister charity, Sense International.  The work of Sense and Sense International enriches each other.

Our vision and mission

Our vision is a world where no one, no matter how complex their disabilities, is left out, isolated, or unable to fulfil their potential.  

Our mission is to remove barriers to communication so that everyone has the opportunity to live their life to the full.

Our values

Everything we do is underpinned by our values.  These values shape the way we work as we pursue our strategic outcomes. 

  • We include.  We are determined to provide a place where everyone belongs.  Where difference is valued and no one is left out.  We take time to understand each other, however we may communicate. And we involve each other, especially in the things that affect us directly.
  • We collaborate.  We bring people together and make connections. Because though we may all connect differently, we are all connected. And by sharing, learning, working and contributing together, we can achieve so much more.
  • We find a way.  We think creatively, seeing potential and possibility. Always finding a way, however long it takes.
  • We challenge.  We think risk is a part of life to embrace and work with, not avoid. We constantly challenge ourselves and the status quo, working hard to make the world a place for everyone. When things go wrong, we’re honest, we learn, we do better.
  • We celebrate.  All achievements are worth celebrating. Those moments and milestones – the ordinary and extraordinary – that give meaning and purpose to life. We notice them and celebrate. Inspiring us to keep going.

Equality, diversity and inclusion are easy to say, harder to achieve. At Sense, it’s not a box ticking exercise. We believe that everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.  We’re determined to create an inclusive culture that allows every individual, regardless of disability, gender, ethnicity or nationality, the opportunity to flourish and reach their potential. Sense recognises that we need to change in terms of who we are and in everything we do as an organisation.

Our four strategic outcomes

We are committed to four strategic outcomes to help us move a step closer to achieving our vision.  

We will focus on the following areas for the people we support:

  1. Children and families get the best possible start.
  2. Adults are supported to live and learn at every stage of their lives.
  3. Individuals are less lonely and more connected with their communities.
  4. Society has increased awareness of the impact of our work and is inspired to take action.

By focusing on these outcomes we will help more children and adults to have the opportunity to take part in life.  We also hope to motivate more people to support us.

Outcome 1: Children and families get the best possible start

Being a parent or carer of a child who is deafblind or with complex disabilities can be challenging.  In many cases, parents can struggle to communicate and connect with their child, especially if the child expresses themselves in a unique way. 

The right support, at the right time, can make all the difference in a child’s development.  It also strengthens and supports families, helping them to accept and embrace their future lives.

To ensure we have the biggest impact, we will make the following areas a priority:

  • Giving more parents and families the opportunities to access Sense Family Days and events.  Sense Family Days provide an opportunity for the whole family to establish friendships, and to support and learn from each other.
  • Developing a new national early intervention and play service, based across Sense Centres throughout the country.  Play is vital for all children, but we know that children with complex disabilities don’t always get the same opportunities to take part.
  • Developing the role of our staff to provide the practical day-to-day support families need, in the home and community – equipping them with the skills needed to communicate with and support their children.
  • Expanding the delivery of Sense Holidays and Short Breaks across the country.  Short Breaks give children and young people the chance to enjoy new experiences and allow parents and carers to take a break.
  • Providing more events and opportunities for siblings to have special new experiences and to meet other young carers. 

Outcome 2: Adults are supported to live and learn at every stage of their lives

Adults need the right support to develop skills, confidence and independence, and to get the most out of life.  With the right support, they will be more able to live a full, active and meaningful life.

This is why we believe that every person should receive support that reflects their aspirations and needs, so that no one is left out, or unable to fulfil their potential.

To ensure we have the biggest impact, we will make the following areas a priority:

  • Investing substantially in the growth of our housing services, to enable more people to live independently and have their own front door. 
  • Making sure that all our services meet the needs of individuals with complex disabilities and those with behaviour that challenges.
  • Expanding our Sense College provision to provide more young people and adults with access to educational opportunities and the wider support they need. 
  • Expanding our delivery of Sense Holidays across the country, so that more adults can enjoy new people, places and experiences.
  • Expanding the delivery of Sense day opportunities.  These services offer adults the opportunity to access learning opportunities and the wider support they need to flourish.

Outcome 3: Individuals are less lonely and more connected with their communities 

We know that many disabled people feel lonely and that this is a very common experience among the people we support. 

Sense wants to respond to this challenge by helping people to build confidence, access new environments, create a sense of connection within their local community, and find a route out of loneliness.  

To ensure we have the biggest impact, we will make the following areas a priority:

  • Expanding the delivery of buddying and other services that help people to develop friendships.  Buddying schemes reduce loneliness by bringing people together and creating a strong sense of community.
  • Creating new volunteering roles which support friendships, local community connections and opportunities for disabled and non-disabled people to come together. 
  • Delivering a national programme of sport and physical activities.  Our programmes provide opportunities for children and adults to enjoy sport which improves their physical health and wellbeing. 
  • Expanding the Sense Arts programme across the country to support more people to participate in and attend creative activities.
  • Replicate the principles of inclusion, connection and community-focus that are part of our Sense hub model across all our services.  Our model provides a pioneering approach to bringing people together, by offering services for the whole community, alongside those for the people we support.
  • Continue our work to ensure that our Sense charity shops are based right at the heart of local communities – and play their own part in creating connections.

Outcome 4: Society has increased awareness of the impact of our work and is inspired to take action

We are working hard to make sure no one, no matter how complex their disabilities, is isolated, left out or unable to fulfil their potential. But we cannot achieve this on our own. It needs society as a whole to know and understand what stops people taking part in life. 

We want everyone – people who are deafblind, people with complex disabilities, families, friends, neighbours, employers, colleagues, politicians and policymakers, to understand the challenges faced by those of us living with complex disabilities – and be inspired to do something about it. 

We need more people with passion to get behind our vision.

To ensure we have the biggest impact, we will make the following areas a priority:

  • Reaching more people with engaging stories and inspiring them to take action to support people with complex disabilities to live the life they choose.
  • Delivering an increased range of opportunities for people to take personal action and get behind our vision.
  • Campaigning nationally and locally for the rights of people who are deafblind and with complex disabilities to take part in life.
  • Running a series of high profile engagement campaigns to reach and engage new audiences with our work.

The organisation we will become 

We will improve how we work as an organisation to give us the best possible chance of achieving our vision. Over the five years of this strategy:

  • We will become an employer of choice.
  • We will modernise and streamline the way we work.
  • We will ensure that quality and outcomes run across everything we do.
  • We will raise more income through our fundraising and trading operations.
  • We will ensure equality, diversity and inclusion run through all our activities.

Making it happen 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read about our new strategy and where we want to be in three years’ time.  We really appreciate it.

It’s thanks to supporters just like you that Sense is able to help people who are deafblind or have complex disabilities communicate and experience the world.

Join #TeamSense, if you haven’t already, and be part of a group of incredible people who want to make sure that no one is left out of life.  There are many ways you can help:

Connect with us

Get in touch with us to learn more or speak with our team.