Mencap research shows that 8 in 10 children and young people with a learning disability are too scared to go out because of bullying and abuse. To address this problem, Mencap’s Community Changemakers project encouraged young people with a learning disability design and deliver projects across the country to make community life better by addressing issues such as bullying, access to work, and making leisure opportunities more inclusive.
After taking part in Mencap’s project, emerging statistics indicate that 71% of young people with a learning disability felt more welcome where they lived.
Special guests including Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, and actresses Jodie Whittaker, from ITV’s hit drama Broadchurch and Niamh McGrady, from BBC’s medical drama Holby City, attended a national charity event, hosted solely by young Changemakers, to congratulate almost 1,000 young volunteers with a learning disability on successfully transforming their local communities.
19-year-old Michael from Leeds (see attached photo) said at yesterday’s event: “I was bullied for a long time at school and college because of my disabilities. This made me feel like I wanted to give up at points in my life. Coming on this Changemakers course has really helped me. I have really enjoyed building my confidence and making new mates, as I have always been on my own. I am not now the nervous person I used to be and I feel positive about the future.”
Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, opened the Community Changemakers event: “We need to open people’s minds to the idea of supporting everyone to get involved in their communities, but particularly people with a disability, because they have so much to contribute and offer, and everyone involved can get so much out of that experience. We as a society ought to be encouraging this more. Congratulations Mencap on this very valuable programme.”
Actress and Mencap ambassador, Jodie Whitaker, who has a nephew with Down’s syndrome, said: “It worries me that young people with a learning disability don’t get the same chances in life as everyone else. I wouldn’t want my nephew, or any child, to be denied opportunities because of their disability. The kids I saw today though gave me hope. They were brilliant! And really confident too. A great example of what young people can do when given the right support”.
Mencap also launched a best practice guide at the event to help organisations encourage young people with a learning disability to actively participate in their local communities.
Elizabeth Archer, national strategic lead for children and young people at Mencap said: “Young people with a learning disability are some of the most marginalised members of society. They face bullying, stigma, discrimination and many other barriers that restrict the choices they can make in their lives. But what people don’t realise is just what these young people can achieve with the right support.
“Tonight was a fantastic celebration of everything these young people have achieved, and we’re hoping that our best practice guide will help other organisations to support more young people with a learning disability to actively participate in their local communities.”
Mencap’s Community Changemakers project is funded by the Cabinet Office’s Social Action Fund. For more information on the project, visit: www.mencap.org.uk/changemakers