Proud Rainbow Warrior set to hand on baton
For 20 years the man known fondly as Rainbow Warrior has fought the corner of the most vulnerable in society here in Lynn.
But Jonathan Toye will stand down as co-ordinator of the West Norfolk Disability Information Service (WNDiS) next month.
His last day at its Tuesday Market Place office will be Wednesday, May 1. Jeanette Jones will take over after that.
Known around town for his signature colourful jumper, Mr Toye wrote a column for the Lynn News under the moniker Rainbow Warrior for many years.
A former Downham schoolteacher for 12-years, he has enjoyed winning appeals and tribunal hearings for disabled people.
WNDiS, who provide an advocacy service, has an 80 per cent success rate in appeals, he said.
“Getting justice for people is at the heart of it all,” Mr Toye said. “And of course we are free. If you go to a solicitor for representation, this would cost thousands of pounds.
“The very first highlight we get is when someone says they are grateful as someone has to support them. Most of the people are up against it”.
He stated it has been a constant battle against government cuts for disability services, which he said have been financially “cut down to the bare bones”.
The Universal Credit system should also be scrapped in his opinion as he claims people receive less than under other benefits.
“Negotiating a benefits system is an absolute labyrinth”, Mr Toye said.
However, he has been encouraged by measures that have been introduced.
He highlighted the decision to make recording assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) a standard part of the process.
Mr Toye said: “There is slightly more chance of an accurate report as things which have been said are recorded.
“We do provide equipment for recording so it’s really important disabled people know that”.
Having initially seen an advert for the WNDiS position in the Lynn News, Mr Toye was pleasantly surprised to be offered the role by WNDiS founders Sylvia Pomeroy and Janice Simons.
“The brief was to develop the service from scratch,” Mr Toye said.
Mr Toye added: “I am really pleased to be leaving the service in a safe pair of hands and have every confidence Jeanette will continue the good work”.
Jeanette Jones, who replaces Mr Toye in May, is hoping to introduce new measures to develop the service.
She said the service is hoping to introduce a drop-in service as well as increasing to five days a week.
WNDiS currently operates from Monday to Thursday at 14 Tuesday Market Place.
But the potential to open on Fridays is now being explored.
Ms Jones said she brings plenty of experience to the role having been a welfare benefits worker since 1984.
This includes working with Women Against Pit Closures in Sheffield at the height of the miners’ strike.
She also has 27-years of experience as a student benefits advisor at Liverpool John Moores University.
And having volunteered alongside Mr Toye at WINDiS since January, Ms Jones is well-prepared for May.
“It’s been absolutely essential being here already. I needed to see how it all worked,” she said.
“Just yesterday [last Thursday], I had a lengthy meeting with the CCG funding person, and our funding has now been approved for two years.
“So, we will not need to worry about that in a year’s time”.