When Rhea from Coventry signed up as a ‘buddy’ to young people her age who have a learning disability or autism, she had some idea of what she might be able to do for others… but no idea of the effect it would have on her own life.
“It’s been an eye-opening adventure with people I wouldn’t usually meet – people from different backgrounds, towns and schools. Additionally, it has brought me a sense of a close-knit community that looks out for each other no matter what,” she says.
Grapevine’s Teenvine Plus project helps connect local teens to ideas, aspirations and skills to build better futures, boosted by a circle of support and the confidence to express themselves and take charge of their lives.
A key ingredient are the ‘buddies’ aged 13-18 who form part of their circle, offering invaluable advice and friendship to young people facing some of life’s toughest challenges – disadvantage, low expectations, refusing school, reduced timetables, unmet mental health needs. The pandemic has intensified all of these issues.
Under normal circumstances, only seven per cent of young people with learning disabilities and autism leave school and find work*. People with a learning disability are seven times more likely to feel lonely “a lot” than other people**.
So we’re working even harder during the Coronavirus crisis to create individual, person-centred plans of action and – with help from people like Rhea – give these young people access to a more ordinary teenage life and the potential to succeed.
Hear what Rhea has to say and drop us a line if you’re a local teenager who would like to join her and our committed Teenvine team working with young people’s strengths and capabilities and dreaming big! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Local SEND report 2018/19. **Mencap survey, 2019.