Charity aims to empower people with learning disabilities and autism
- Credit: Archant
A charity which helps people with learning disabilities is desperate to raise awareness of the support it offers.
North Somerset People First (NSPF) empowers people with learning disabilities, and those with autism spectrum disorders, by providing them with the opportunities and support to speak up for themselves and take control of their own lives.
The charity provides education courses, speaking up groups, friendship, walking and support groups, personal planning and advocacy services.
Marina Turner, from NSPF, said: "There is a common misconception that people with learning disabilities get so much support, but lots don't have any family and don't get any support for things like paying bills or visiting the doctors.
"We run educational courses covering a range of topics, including safety in the house, eating, anger management, social skills and sexual relationships.
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"We also run friendship groups and peer support - where people can help each other and give advice."
NSPF was set up in 1991 by a small group of people who wanted to improve the lives of those with a learning disability by introducing self-advocacy.
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The charity works for, and is led by, the voices of people with learning disabilities.
Most of its funding comes from North Somerset Council, while a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund in 2018 enabled the charity to launch its Better Life service.
The service includes psychoeducational courses - on issues such as anxiety, safety and anger - advocacy and person-centred planning, fitness groups and peer support which help to decrease social isolation.
Funding from the Lloyds Bank Foundation also enabled NSPF to launch the Moving on with my Life service which helps people to plan and prepare for more independence.
Chief executive Michelle Burnett said: "The provision of our 'Better Life' service has enabled us to support people who find it difficult to access mainstream mental health services, as well as being more inclusive in engaging with a higher number of people who are not in receipt of a social care service.
"Our 'Moving on with your Life' service helps to ensure that people with learning disabilities can move towards greater independence and an increased quality of life which they choose themselves. It has been fantastic to hear about the positive outcomes but these new services are not without its challenges.
"One of the biggest challenges we have encountered is sourcing affordable housing for individuals wanting to move towards independent living.
"There is a huge demand for social housing and the difference between the entitlement of housing benefit and costs of private rented properties is huge."
Daniel Lucas, aged 28, is one of the members of NSPF who has been helped by the charity.
When he first attended he was very shy and afraid to speak, but he completed a number of educational courses and he now helps others as a facilitator at the friendship groups.
Marina said: "The knowledge and support that NSPF has given Dan has encouraged him to gain the confidence he needed in order to feel able to achieve the things that he wanted to.
"Dan has made many friends via our charity and his social life has improved considerably.
"Dan enjoys helping others as he finds it extremely rewarding seeing others 'come out of their shells' like North Somerset People First helped him to.
"If our members have confidence and support behind them, that tends to be the biggest help a person needs in order to start off on the right path with NSPF."
Dan wants to help set up an activities committee to organise more social activities.
He also dreams of setting up his own salvage business which would employ people with learning difficulties.
NSPF would love to reach out to more people who would benefit from its services.
It is also always looking for more volunteers.
To find out more about the charity, call 01934 426086, email firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to www.nspf.co.uk
You can also keep up to date through the charity's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NorthsomersetpeoplefirstNSPF's Weston Friendship Group is next meeting on April 8 from 10.30am to noon at Brunello Lounge, in Beach Road.
The next Weston Better Together group is on April 3 at the same venue from 1-2.30pm and the Peer Support Group is running at Club Tabu, in the Boulevard, on March 27 from 11-12.30pm.