Focusing on ability and not disability

ALL TOO often when people look at someone with a disability, they focus on what they can’t do, and not on what they can.

Here in Stratford, one local charity supporting local people with learning disabilities works hard to reverse that, giving its customers access to a huge range of meaningful leisure and learning opportunities so that they – and everyone else – can see exactly what they can achieve and enjoy.

Heart of England Mencap supports around 200 people across Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

As well as offering supported living, residential and respite care, the charity also runs a hugely popular day activity service called Pathway.

In Stratford, Pathway operates 5 days a week from its leafy base on the Alscot Estate, just a few minutes from the town, welcoming 36 customers each week.

Stratford Town Trust was proud to award a grant of almost £12,695 to Pathway, to support its activities.

And how these activities vary.

The Heart of England Mencap team works hard to enable a huge range of opportunities, all of them meaningful, all of them helping to build skills and self-confidence, and all-important friendships too.

“Our aim is to enable people to live the life they choose, focusing on their ability and not their disability,” said Cath Errington, Fundraising Manager for Heart of England Mencap.

“This is all in a very safe environment where they are adequately supported, yet enabled to have their own experiences with friends as other people would simply take for granted.”

So, what were the activities the Town Trust helped fund?

There was a day’s sailing, a 4-week singing course, costumes for a drama production, mural painting, an accessible rowing course at Stratford Boat Club, a trip to the Space Centre, a trip to the panto, a first aid course, Mindful Meals cookery classes, an accredited maths course, accessible dance sessions, and a photography course, culminating in an exhibition. Town Trust funding also helped fund the all-important transport to and from activities, and enabled Heart of England Mencap to purchase an exercise bike for use at Pathway, plus 2 iPads and a video camera.

“We were delighted that all of the day service customers were able to take part in the full range of activities, and in fact, most of them took part in everything!” Cath added.

“Without the funding from the Trust none of the above would have been possible. Our current funding from the local authority essentially just pays for our customers to attend Pathway and have the support workers they need. It doesn’t cover transport to get them to and from Alscot, or to activities within the community, or support the costs involved in those activities.

“It is so important that our customers really feel a part of Stratford town, and that they are a valued member of their local community.

“Crucially, it has helped us put on activities which have helped them to build up skills and self- confidence, so that they are willing to try new things, and know that they can achieve in spite of their disability. It has also enabled us to create many happy memories which they can share with their friends.”

For more information on Heart of England Mencap – go online to: