Community Catalysts helping to unlock the assets of people with a learning disability or autism

This year Learning Disability Week focuses on employment which social enterprise Community Catalysts welcomes, as they recognise that people with a learning disability and those on the autistic spectrum have skills, interests and talents that are often unseen and untapped.

From Community Catalysts’ experience they know that with the right help, people with a learning disability or autism can make great employees, become self-employed, be entrepreneurial and/or make a real difference in their community. All of which can help people to be active, contributing members of society which is good for their health and wellbeing and for the health and wellbeing of their community.

Community Catalysts support people to explore their passions and think how they might put these to good use – for themselves, for others and for their community. They enable people to forge links with others with the same interests or aspirations, to make connections and maximise local assets.

Do Your Thing in Kirklees is a Community Catalysts co-production project funded by Kirklees Council and Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). The project is helping people with a learning disability or those on the autistic spectrum to use what they are good at by setting up and running activity groups. The local Coordinator Mark Finch met Jamie last summer, via Real Employment in Huddersfield. Jamie, who has a learning disability, owns an allotment in Mirfield and loves the outdoors. Jamie wanted support to establish his own gardening group – inviting people to his allotment to share his considerable gardening knowledge and skills, whilst also making new friends. The group now has 2 members and for Jamie at the current time, this is just right. Members, who both have a learning disability or autism really love the involvement and new friendships are being forged. One member has also joined other groups established under the Do Your Thing Project, widening his circle of friends and local connections.

Whilst supporting Jamie to develop his gardening group Mark has also helped him connect with the folks at the local pub – meaning gardening group members can use the toilets and of course have a well-earned lunch!!

Mark also put Jamie in touch with the Keldergate Community Café, who needed help with their garden. Jamie is now taking steps to run a second gardening group at the café (which he sees could include a higher number of members) whilst also doing voluntary work in the café.

On behalf of Jamie and his gardeners Mark put a ‘shout out’ on Nextdoor (an online social network for neighbours and communities) to ask for some gardening tools. This has led to a great connection with a busy local self-employed gardener who would like some support to help him meet demand – a great employment or self-employment possibility for Jamie or his wider network in the future.

Community Catalysts believes that this type of approach has so much value – whether or not it leads to employment or self-employment. Highlighting people’s ability not disability, and ensuring they are seen as active citizens leading change rather than passive recipients of care services has a huge impact on us all.

For more information visit the website or contact Helen Allen Manager of Enterprise and Community Innovation on 07912 842 552