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Making links and learning lessons

A great study visit to Hansel in Ayrshire

We are now a good few weeks into the Kirklees project where the aim is to engage with some of the estimated six to eight thousand people with a learning disability or autism, who do not use formal care or support services. The main focus is to identify people, get to know them, their interests and skills, and the support them to take a lead in starting their own activity, support or interest group.

As part of my induction Helen Allen and I were fortunate enough to go on a trip to Ayrshire in March. We went to meet some of the people who have benefitted from the Enterprising Minds project run by Hansel and were now ‘doing their thing’. We also hoped to learn from Alyson and the innovators at Hansel about the opportunities they discovered and the challenges they faced in delivering the Enterprising Minds project. There have clearly been some great success stories and it was lovely to put faces to names but most importantly to learn about people’s journeys and take valuable learning back to Kirklees.

Upon arrival we were met by the Enterprising Minds Co-ordinator Alyson Miller, who very kindly acted as our host for our study visit. Alyson introduced us to 3 people/groups:

Mark teaches arts and crafts to older people in sheltered accommodation. It was clear that he is very happy with the positive impact the project has had on his life but he was willing to share some of the pitfalls experienced, in the hope it would help others learn from them. Due to the vulnerability of the older people that attend his group, Mark needed a DBS check and it was difficult to obtain one which delayed the delivery of his activity. In Kirklees not every group leader will need a DBS check but where it is deemed necessary we will endeavour to support people at the earliest opportunity to access one.

The Hive
We visited The Hive, a social club established by and for adults with learning disabilities and/or autism. There really was a great buzz that evening! Most people who attended The Hive had some kind of support which, in the context of the Kirklees project might present a challenge. Helen and I realised it will be important to find ways to get people the help they need to run or attend any groups established through ‘Do Your Thing’. Hopefully the fact that we are based in Volunteering Kirklees may throw up opportunities to identify volunteers who could help.

Gemma has a great voice and wanted to share her passion of singing with others. With Alyson’s help Gemma set up her own singing group which successfully attracted a large amount of early members. As with any group, numbers can dwindle over time and when we met Gemma she was in the process of reviewing the activity to ensure people continued to come along. Our meeting with Gemma helped us to realise that some group leaders may need support to regularly review their group’s purpose and keep members engaged and contributing.

We learned a lot from our study visit, not least that positive examples at the onset can help a project like this to snowball. Positive stories and real examples of what is possible, however quirky, can really help to engage people and to bring them, their families and social workers along on the journey.

Many thanks to Alyson, Mark, Gemma and all at The Hive Club for making our visit so beneficial and enjoyable. We hope to have the same success in Kirklees!!

160223-152633Mark Finch
‘Do Your Thing’ Project Co-ordinator

Click here for our  ‘Do your thing flyer

Posted in: Kirklees 'Do Your Thing'

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