HRH The Princess Royal has visited Cheshire to celebrate the accomplishments of people with learning disabilities, supported by local charity Hft, as they showcased their achievements at an event hosted at Arley Hall. The event demonstrated how Hft has empowered people with learning disabilities with a greater level of independence and access to community life.
Yesterday (25th June), the Princess joined the celebrations at Arley Hall where people with learning disabilities showcased their talents in radio, dance and the arts.
The visit gave Hft’s Royal Patron the opportunity to meet people the charity supports to find out how their lives have been transformed by getting involved in a number of activities.
The Princess Royal was greeted by an energetic dance programme performed by award-winning cheerleading squad ‘The Jewels’ who wowed her with a lively performance. The Bradford-based cheerleading squad is made up of a group of people with learning disabilities, supported by Hft. Their achievements include winning first place in their category at the Future Cheer Cheerleading Championships in Paris last year.
Earlier this year, Her Royal Highness marked the success of Project SEARCH, a joint supported employment programme for people with learning disabilities, run in partnership with Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Southfield School and Bradford Metropolitan District Council. Today, the Princess had an opportunity to catch up with the team on the latest developments and meet people supported by the scheme whose lives have been transformed by this initiative.
The Princess Royal met people involved with the charity’s dating and friendships agency Luv2meetU, a Community Interest Company (CIC), run by and for people with learning disabilities. Along with its counterpart Hum Tum, which is especially for people with learning disabilities from Asian communities in Leeds. Luv2meetU allows people to make new friends and develop relationships. Hum Tum is run by Luv2meetU in conjunction with the Asian community organisation Hamara.
The Princess Royal then met staff, local dignitaries and people the charity supports. This was followed by a speech by a family member, Andrew Collinge, who talked openly about the transition from residential to supported living from a family perspective.
During the visit Her Royal Highness also said a few words, acknowledging the often extraordinary achievements made by people with learning disabilities. She reflected on the positive impact that creative thinking can have on individuals’ ability to reach their potential and exceed expectations and recognised the value of supportive networks that help people have their say and create real change that addresses the issues they face.
Reflecting on the day, the Chairman of Hft, Professor David Croisdale-Appleby, added: “We were delighted that Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal was able to join our celebrations and see how far we have come in terms of developing our services, as well as viewing some of the exciting new technology that we are using, to ensure that we can continue to achieve the best outcomes and quality of life for the people we support.”
Speaking about his own experiences of Hft, Andrew Collinge said: “It’s an honour to have been invited to speak in the presence of The Princess Royal as a representative of the families whose relatives Hft supports. My younger sister Joanne lives in a supported living house with three friends. I see on a regular basis the wonderful care she receives from a dedicated team that help enhance not only Joanne’s life but those around her.”
Hft currently supports more than 2,500 people with learning disabilities across the country. Locally, the charity supports more than 66 people in Cheshire. This includes supporting people with learning disabilities to live independently in their own homes, providing employment services to help people develop skills and experience for work and helping people to pursue hobbies, make new friends and get involved in their local communities.
To find out more about Hft and the services they offer, as well as Luv2meetU, visit the website on www.hft.org.uk.
Hft is a national charity providing local support for people with learning disabilities and their families. HRH The Princess Royal has been a Royal Patron of Hft for over 30 years. For more information on Hft please visit www.hft.org.uk