Mencap’s Northern District Meeting ‘Getting a full life’ was held on 10 December in Newtownabbey. Those at the meeting discussed opportunities that are available for young people with a learning disability and their families going through the transition process.
The district event was delivered as part of Mencap’s Inspire Me! programme and was an opportunity to look at what it takes to deliver co-ordinated and effective services for young people with a learning disability.
"Transition is an important time for everyone involved in the process, especially the young person, as preparations are made to leave school and move into adulthood, lifelong learning or work" said Aine O’Hare, Mencap’s community support officer.
A number of people shared their stories at the meeting.
Luke Hutchinson is 17 years old and a Mencap Inspire Me! Young Ambassador. He did a presentation which talked about his transition experience, which included being part of Mencap’s HYPE project - Helping Young People Enter Education and Employment. “Mencap has helped me in so many different ways to do what I want to do and most important of all, they believed in me.”
Margaret is a member of the Post 19 Lobby Group. Her son Paul attends a drop in facility in Newtonabbey at the Base through the Northern Health and Social Care Trust's (NHSCT) Day Opportunities Programme. “I can’t emphasise enough how stressful this whole process has been for the entire family. The truth is that our young people don’t have the same choices as their peers, they simply have to take what’s available or stay at home.”
Annette was on the event’s Q and A panel and is Mencap's co-chair. She talked about how she spent her time. Annette had previously gone to a day centre five days a week. She now works in an insurance office and through the NHSCT’s Day Opportunities Programme, sees friends and socialises at The Base in Carrick and attends college on Friday’s to study Maths and ICT. “I am really happy with my life and I like the different things I do in the week. The only thing I would change is that I would like to be busy all week.”
Working closely together
The meeting was attended by different organisations, such as NHSCT and North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB), who made presentations and said they were committed to working together and the need for a ‘joined up’ approach by government departments and agencies to ensure that services worked in a more consistent way was highlighted during the meeting.
Jasper McKinney from the Further Education Colleges' Learning Support and Discrete Working Group said, “Good practice is spreading, but we need to look at the full transition pathway for the young person. We need to be looking at where a young person’s abilities will take them, and not focus on how their disability may prevent them from achieving.”
A Q&A session had a panel made up of members from a number of different organisations, Mencap's co-chair, a parent and the vice-chair of the Assembly 's education committee. Some of the issues raised were the importance of options and support which meet the full range of needs and aspirations of young people with a learning disability, the availability of real choices which enable the young person to continue to learn and reach their potential and greater clarity around timescales. Questions on greater investment in services and creative options for young people with a learning disability going through transition were also put to the Q&A panel.
There was an information marketplace where the following organisations and groups were on hand to provide advice and guidance.
- Mencap's transitions services
- NHSCT Core respite services
- Carrick Beacon
- Centre for Independent Living
Presentations made at the district event by Inspire Me! Young Ambassador Luke Hutchinson, NEELB, NHSCT and Jasper McKinney are available from Karen Clarke, Mencap events co-ordinator
Telephone: 028 9069 0184.
If you would like more information, or to be added to our mailing list, please contact community support officer Aine O’Hare by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 028 9049 2666.