Belfast Activity Centre
Registered charity XN82053
Towards Independence is a pilot project funded by Big Lottery Reaching Communities. It provides personal and social development opportunities specifically for 18-30 year olds with a physical or mental disability.
Towards Independence offers 6 – 12 months support to young adults with disabilities through the difficult transitional period from youth to young adult where in most instances state schooling finishes, benefit support may change and many existing support networks cease to apply after 18 years of age.
As emerging young adults they are presented, due to perceptions of their disability, with limited choices for their continuing personal and social development particularly where a lack of independent living skills is seen to impact upon potential employment opportunities or capabilities.
Towards Independence strives to address these twin challenges by developing greater independent living alongside skills development for employability. This will be achieved by using outdoor sporting activities as a vehicle for experiential learning alongside a residential approach for the development of independent living with a programme of coaching and mentoring support to assist with skills development for employability.
A recurring message from AccessAbility, as well as other BAC programmes including working with young carers and lone parents, is that opportunities are geared and focused up until 18 years of age but that most young adults with a disability within the 18-30 age range are widely forgotten and offered minimal personal and social development opportunities.
This comes at a time when they feel most vulnerable and insecure and are suddenly faced with having to compete for limited independent or supported living accommodation and employment opportunities as young adults not in education, employment or training (NEET’s).
The present competitive job market is challenging for all young NEET’s but increasingly perceived as excluded for most young adults with a disability leading to perceptions that as young disabled adults they have no chance and no hope for meaningful future employment.
This major gap in the support and resources available or provided for young adults with a lifelong disability has been identified across BAC core programmes, through feedback directly from clients and their families and through consultation with a range partner and collaborating organisations.
Towards Independence aims to develop models of good practice to offer young adults with disabilities more than simply a lifelong placement within a day centre or a life on benefit dependency at home.
Outdoor adventure learning activities are proven to help develop self confidence and self esteem leading to greater independence that can be carried through into other areas of personal and social development. Towards Independence will provide the opportunity to develop models of good practice to provide the support framework and facilities necessary to deliver personal and social development opportunities for up to 40 young adults with disabilities annually.
This programme will help participants to set and achieve individual goals, incorporating outdoor adventure learning as a vehicle for personal development. The programme will incorporate residential based opportunities to help develop key life skills including cleaning, cooking, maintaining personal hygiene and maintaining a daily routine that is achievable independent of care.
Towards Independence will work collaboratively with other partner organisations including Princes Trust NI to explore and develop potential employment opportunities through skills development and placements. BAC will nurture each participant to develop the confidence and skills to self-map an achievable and more fulfilling life that is less parent/carer or state dependant.
BAC’s goal is to 'Change Lives and Build Futures' and SCIL would play a major part in achieving this goal for many young people with disabilities over 18 years of age.
This programme we help to raise awareness not just in Belfast but across Northern Ireland towards the challenges faced by young adults with disabilities but more importantly demonstrate the value and contribution that this disadvantaged community of young adults can offer to society.