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Raising Aspirations of Young people in Collaboration with Mencap and Greenbank

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Mencap and the Greenbank Project gain support from the Windmills Foundation to enhance life chances of young people with special educational needs.

 Issue

The Windmills Foundation identified a significant group of vulnerable young people who felt let down by mainstream schools’ careers provision.  Often left out, or simply asked to sit in the library during careers presentations, these young people with moderate to severe learning difficulties were missing out on employment and life skills.  The group were socially active, but lack the confidence and interpersonal skills to thrive and survive in a mainstream job environment.

Solution

Utilising the STAR resource, the Windmills team volunteered to run two career coaching programmes for 20+ young people (16-24 year olds) within two local charities – Mencap and the Greenbank Project.  Delivered over a six week period, participants discovered they had more skills than they thought, created a Golden Ticket to their future and began to make this real through a range of work experience, peer mentoring and skills development sessions.  Greenbank students presented a visual picture of their dream future to parents and carers at a final celebration event, where hidden talents and passions were highlighted and whole life action plans created.  Mencap members created their own night school class, facilitated by a Windmills volunteer and combined skills, treasures, and roles sessions with a weekly Subway meal.

Impact

While many young people in mainstream education have the capability yet lack the motivation, these cohorts demonstrated the complete opposite – they had the motivation but lacked the confidence and skills.  It cannot be underestimated how tiny, baby steps represent significant ‘distance travelled’.  Simple positive outcomes included Lewis’s increased confidence to talk about his skills to a small peer group; Charlotte’s exposure to working life in Vitaflo, a local nutrition business and Martin’s realisation that he has more control over his future than he thinks.  As stated by Sarah Jones, Chief Executive of Mencap Liverpool “The success of the programme lay in the hearts and minds of the participants over time.  I was amazed by how much was retained 6 months after the programme.  The group still enjoy meeting up to learn new things together”.   Our reflections on these two projects is that a significant gap in provision still exists within the education process to empower young people with special needs to realise their full potential While the STAR (include link to STAR in portfolio here) resource made an impact, we still have a long way to go to design specific resources and activities for people with extremely basic skills levels.  We would love to hear from people who are keen to work in partnership with the Foundation on these issues .