Young people with learning disabilities in the Ballymoney area are being supported to make the move to adulthood and plan for the future, thanks to a grant from Big Lottery Fund.
The YE (Youth Empowerment) CAN project is supporting young people aged 12-18 with learning disabilities and their parents to move from children’s to adult services, whilst helping improve their employability, self-esteem and independence.
CAN, which is based in Ballymoney, has received an award of £574,217 to run the YE CAN project over five years.
Janet Schofield, CEO of CAN said this grant is helping young people across the Causeway Coast and Glens area with learning disabilities at an important time in their lives. It is also supporting parents to understand and prepare for what happens after their child leaves school.
“Our young people struggle when it comes to leaving school, leaving children’s services and moving into adult services – it’s a massive leap,” she said.
“There isn’t a lot of transition support out there so we’ll be bridging the gap by signposting the young people to the right support, providing one-to- one mentoring and training and education in life skills.”
“It is a lot for parents to navigate and it can be overwhelming. It can also be hard for a parent who has always been protective over their child to let them be more independent – they can be afraid to let go. So part of this project is the provision of parental support to enable parents to share their experiences and be a positive support network for each other,” Janet said.
Janet explained the project would be shaped by what each young person needs, including support with independent living skills and opportunities to make friends. It will also connect the young people with programmes in their communities and CAN’s other projects.
The young people will help promote the project and activities and they will have their own leadership forum.
Mary Hunter, whose daughter attends CAN’s Best Buddies project said: “Hollie has been involved with CAN for three years now. It’s building up her social skills and helping with her independence. She is making new friends in her community which is fabulous for her future. It’s great for me, and other parents to know that CAN will be there to help us too.”
Jade Millen from Coleraine has been involved in the organisation for over six years.
“Being part of CAN really helped me. I was going through a bad time when I got involved in the youth project but by being part of the group, I’ve been able to make friends and had so many experiences I would never have had. CAN gave me the confidence to go to college and I’ve just started my first job.”