Over £41,000 in funding to amplify voices of people with learning disabilities in Dorset
The People First Dorset charity has received £41,311 of funding raised by Health Lottery South West and distributed by the People’s Health Trust for a two-year project that will support people with learning disabilities living in Weymouth and Portland in Dorset.
The Speaking Up project was established in order to enable people with learning disabilities to come together and develop their communication skills and strengthen their ability to express themselves. Members are supported to feel more confident and address situations ranging from being able to order a drink in a café to discussing serious issues with local authorities.
People with learning disabilities often suffer from inequalities such as in healthcare, education and employment. According to research, only 5.9% of people with a learning disability are in work in England. One aim of the project is to break the societal barriers and help members upskill themselves while gaining confidence through training sessions and other activities to support them into employment.
Throughout the pandemic, the project continues to support its members through constant online group calls including training sessions and fun sessions. Additionally, the project representatives will continue to call individual members and check up on them on a regular basis.
One of the project members, Nesta, speaks about her experience with the People First Dorset charity saying “Since March, I have had calls from People First Dorset staff at least twice a week. We have a good chat for an hour and talk about all sorts of things. Each Monday and Thursday I wake up and think, ‘Oh good, its them calling today’.
“They have helped me to cope during a very difficult time. Some days when I felt low, it was really good to talk things through.”
Another project member, Emily said: “I am very grateful for the support I have had from People First Dorset. I have zoom calls, phone calls, connect magazine, jigsaw puzzles and books. This support helps me stay in touch with friends and pass time at home in the evenings and weekends. If I am worried about anything I know there is someone I can talk to apart from my mum.”
Commenting on the funding from money raised through The Health Lottery, Laura Kerr, Manager at People First Dorset said “The funding has really helped us stay afloat during this difficult time and it has enabled us to actively listen to our members needs and be dynamic, creative and flexible in our response. Essentially it has kept vulnerable people with learning disabilities out of crisis at a time which for many has been extremely confusing and unsettling.”
Commenting on the project, Martin Ellice, Managing Director of the Health Lottery, said “We are always delighted to support such meaningful projects that empower members of the community who are often marginalised. The dedicated team at People First Dorset has worked hard to support its members, even during the difficult times of the pandemic and it is truly inspiring.”