On Friday (13 March), over 100 charity professionals, people with a learning disability, their families and carers turned out at York Racecourse to celebrate the outstanding dedication of volunteers from local Mencap groups across the North of England.

The Royal Mencap Society is the UK’s leading learning disability charity. It works in partnerships with hundreds of local Mencap groups across the country, who are separate charities that work for, and with, people with a learning disability.

In the first event of its kind, five outstanding individuals were presented with awards by Derek Lewis, Chair of Trustees for the Royal Mencap Society, for their contributions to volunteering in the following categories:

Outstanding Contribution Award: Harry and Andrea Evers from West Leeds Gateway

The pair have clocked up a total of 79 years volunteering between them for West Leads Gateway, a club for adults with a learning disability which is managed and run entirely by unpaid volunteers. They’ve both dedicated most of their adult lives to fundraising and developing the club and supporting its members.  

Young Volunteer Award: Amy Housego from Sheffield Mencap and Gateway

Amy has been a loyal volunteer twice a week even during her finals at university and is adored by all the club members. Sheffield Mencap and Gateway helps people to make the most of their lives: to get a little more independence, to find friendship or a partner, and to find a job or a fulfilling daytime activity.

Long Service Award:Julia and Jeffrey Simpson, Terrence O’Grady Club in Oldham

Jeffrey has been a volunteer at the Terrence O’Grady club in Oldham for over 50 years and his wife for 40. Every Tuesday around 100 members aged 16+ and many helpers come together to enjoy an evening of recreation and entertainment. Julia and Jefferey have worked tirelessly to make this possible. 

Award for Innovation: Gwen Seller from Wirral Mencap

Gwen has been the driving force behind the organisations development over the last 4 years. Wirral Mencap now has five members of full and part time staff that work alongside a team of over 20 volunteers to deliver services that provide support and opportunities to people with a learning disability and their families in Wirral.

Award for Campaigning: Karen Grey from Scunthorpe Mencap

Karenis an excellent ambassador for both her local group and National Mencap. Karen also has a learning disability. Karen is currently campaigning for Changing Places accessible toilets with her advocacy group.

Karen Grey, who has a learning disability and picked up the top award Campaigning, said: 

 It was nice see so many people there from so many clubs. It was a great opportunity to meet other volunteers. I really enjoyed the day and the speakers were good. 

In attendance at the ceremony were staff and people with a learning disability from 24 local Mencap groups, who were able to share the work they are doing with others in the region. Some local Mencap groups got the opportunity to present on the day, including the Take A Bow theatre group from Barnsley Mencap, who gave a performance of their interpretation of Cinderella which brought the house down!

David Fiddament, Regional Engagement Manager for the Royal Mencap Society in the North of England, said:

 The event is a way of celebrating the fantastic work that our local group volunteers do to support people with a learning disability in their communities. We wanted to say thank you on behalf of the Royal Mencap Society and recognise the important role our volunteers play. 

 We had volunteers from across the North of England, who ranged in age from 21 to 91! There was an impressive 1,440 years of volunteering in the room and we were able to say a huge thank you to them all. 

 It was the first time we'd brought people from across the region together and it was the first opportunity local Mencap groups had to nominate their volunteers for a prestigious award. We will continue to show our volunteers just how big a difference they make to the lives of the people with a learning disability who they support. We are immensely proud of all our volunteers and would like to thank and congratulate them on their wonderful achievements. 

-ENDS-

For more information, please contact Lisa Gilbert, PR officer for the Royal Mencap Society, on 020 7696 5414 orlisa.gilbert@mencap.org.uk

About Mencap

There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities.

Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.

www.mencap.org.uk  

For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact Mencap Direct on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email help@mencap.org.uk

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.

Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.