Like the Olympic and Paralympic Games Makers, the Changemakers project hopes to leave a lasting impression. “We really want that legacy,” says Claire. “It’s important that we look at how to keep the young people involved with volunteering, past their community impact project, whether that’s with Mencap or not.”
To this end, Mencap’s volunteering team is already finding opportunities for many of the young people. Around 450 of the volunteers will be trained as Inspire Me Young Ambassadors – supporting the work of Mencap by speaking at events, sharing their ideas, helping with campaigning and recruitment, and supporting other people with a learning disability.
Once the project ends in February, a review will be carried out, including evidence collected by the young people. The information will be used to write a guide to supporting young people with a learning disability to make a difference in their community. It will be launched through the Cabinet Office and given to decision-makers, including MPs and local authority service commissioners.
“The findings from Changemakers will be used to show other organisations how to work with young people with a learning disability,” says Claire. “Ultimately, it will mean that we have lots of empowered young people who are better able to influence their futures.”
The Redbridge Changemakers group (pictured) in north-east London, was the first to complete its community impact project. The 16 young people have been focusing on ways to influence change through democracy.
In August, the group went to parliament, where they met their local MP, John Cryer. They had the chance to raise important issues and ask for his support. They spoke about employment, the lack of leisure activities and transition between youth and adult services. “Before you get to 18, there are lots of things for young people to do,” said Sapphire Littler, 15. “But after that, there’s less to do – like going to youth clubs.” John Cryer said he would support campaigning to make nightclubs safer and more inclusive.
The Changemakers held a fundraising session at their local branch of The Co-operative. This raised money to help fund their future work. Perhaps the biggest success has been securing two places on the borough’s youth council, allowing them to help make local decisions.