We had a visit from a worker from action for children today. Harry had been referred to them via Adult Services who are responsible for funding some of their activities.
I hadn’t heard of action for children before and when I googled the website and found that the charity supported neglected and vulnerable children & young people I was a little perturbed. How could they help Harry?
The lady who came brought two thick A4 folders stuffed with photographs of young people enjoying themselves on trips. Harry was a little reluctant to tear himself away from his Sherlock Holmes DVD to come downstairs to meet someone new. However, the photos were a great ice-breaker and Harry recognised lots of people from school.
She explained that the service is aimed at young people aged 18-25 with learning disabilities and those on the autistic spectrum. I was particularly interested in their Independence Support service which aims to help young people to use public transport, find jobs, access further education, develop independence skills. All of which sound perfect for Harry.
They also run an after-school Tea Time Group on Tuesday evenings which encourages young people to prepare and cook a meal for themselves and others. Those who attend are involved in choosing healthy options for menu ideas, budgeting and shopping. This is the sort of meaningful activity that I keep banging on about. Having the opportunity to be fully involved in an activity from start to finish on a regular basis is a really useful life skill.
My worry is that Adult Services will not agree to fund Harry’s transport back home, even though he will not be making use of his school taxi on that night. This is what happened with the School Youth Club and we ended up paying £30 for a taxi to bring Harry home at the end of the session. That’s a substantial amount of money on a monthly basis: almost half of his Disability Living Allowance.
Independence Support also extends to helping young people find accommodation. The project has its own supported flats and young people living in the development are supported up to the age of 26 to learn all aspects of independent living. At 26 they are supported to find other accommodation in the community, having gained the skills required to live independently with limited or no support at all. What a thought!
Harry is a little way off that but it is good to know that there are organisations out there which will be able to help him when he gets to that stage. Of course, such organisations will only be around provided their funding isn’t cut any more than it already has been. This particular branch has seen its workforce halved in recent years.
In the meantime the charity also provides a Summer Activity Scheme which involves taking groups of young people out and about. They particularly like to bring together those who have been away at residential colleges and encouraging them to socialise together. This seems like a particularly good idea since many young people will have got to know one another from the age of 11 upwards and it provides an excellent opportunity to catch up.
By the end of the meeting I was feeling very encouraged. The activities and support offered seem to be appropriate for Harry and I could see how he would gain skills, improve his confidence and have opportunities to make new friends.
And now, there are a few more forms to fill in…