Taking part in leisure activities and hobbies in our free time is good for people.

As well as being fun it can help people to feel better about themselves, improve skills, feel part of a group or community and provide opportunities to meet new people and make friends.

However, many people with a learning disability may have limited opportunities to take part in the activities that they want. Some activities may not feel welcoming to people with a learning disability. Less opportunities can mean people with a learning disability may risk missing out on the benefits of taking part.

Friends, family and paid support

Friends, family or paid supporters can help people with a learning disability take part in leisure activities. However, whilst this can be helpful, assistance from family and paid supporters sometimes doesn't allow for the person with a learning disability to gain all the benefits of taking part. Parents and paid supporters may focus on 'looking after' a person with a learning disability, rather than letting them make choices themselves.

Befriending

Befriending is another way for people with a learning disability to take part in leisure activities, particularly activities alongside people who don't have a disability. Befriending is where a person volunteers to act as a friend to another person in order to help them achieve a target. Because no one is 'in charge', befrienders might be able  to help a person with a learning disability become more included in leisure activities with other people.

Sidekicks Scheme

Mencap run a similar scheme to befriending, called Sidekicks. Sidekicks are volunteers who support a person with a learning disability to live they life they want to lead; including taking part in leisure activities and hobbies. You can find out more about this on the Sidekick Scheme webpage.

Over the next few months I am going to be working with Mencap to find out how Sidekicks help people with a learning disability take part in leisure activities. I will be speaking to people involved in the scheme; people with a learning disability and their Sidekicks. I am hopefully going to find out whether Sidekicks can help people with a learning disability take part in leisure activities alongside people without disabilities.

This information will help the Sidekicks scheme better support people with a learning disability to take part in the activities they want to be part of.

If you would like to find out more information about the project then please contact me: