The Inspire Me project is helping young people with a learning disability through the difficult transition to adulthood
Shane is 21 (see below) and has a learning disability, but it has only just been diagnosed. It takes Shane longer to understand things than other people and he struggles with managing his money. Luckily, his family supports him.
Many other young people like Shane are not so lucky. Transition to adulthood is a difficult time for everyone, but it can be even harder for those with a learning disability. And most don’t receive enough support.
A recent survey by the Local Government Education and Children’s Services Research Programme found that relatively few young people with special educational needs, learning difficulties or disabilities are properly prepared for adult life. There is limited support to help them achieve independence and access services.
A new project, run by Mencap and ENABLE Scotland, aims to plug this gap. Inspire Me, funded by The Co-operative, focuses on giving young people with a learning disability, aged 16 to 25, the chance to change their future.
The project is built around six workshops – volunteering, preparation for the world of work, managing my money, action planning and goal setting, citizenship and community and confidence and motivation. These are run by regioanl youth coordinators across the UK, supported by volunteers, for groups of around eight to ten young people with a learning disability – usually in schools, colleges or youth clubs. Project support staff with a learning disability were also recruited to support the project alongside the regional youth coordinators.
“We wanted to make sure the workshops were engaging, rather than lecturing,” explains Inspire Me programme manager Asha Vijendran. “Each has a session plan with objectives, but the regional youth co-ordinator can adapt it depending on the group.”
After the workshops, there are various options. “Some young people just come for one workshop. For others, it’s more of a journey,” says Asha. The youth workers support them to go in whatever direction they choose, via Mencap services, if appropriate.
Those that need extra support or have a specific goal can be allocated a volunteer progression mentor. In London, for example, a volunteer helped a young person join a gym – they now go together. The young people also have the chance to become a young ambassador for Mencap.
Making a difference
Those who complete the citizenship and community workshop can get involved in a community impact project. “The projects are led by the young people,” explained regional youth co-ordinator Nithee Kotecha. “For example, some of the young people attend a community centre, but they thought it looked dull, so we decided to plant some shrubs.”
“The young people say: ‘I normally receive support from someone. It’s rare that I make a difference,’” adds Asha.