Work defines us. What do you want to do when you grow up? What do you do for a living? These are questions we are all asked when people want to get to know us. But they are questions seldom directed towards young people with learning disabilities.
Yellow Submarine's passion lies in seeing our members do well and reach their full potential. We work hard to help them challenge the widely-assumed limitations that a learning disability brings and aim for whatever future they aspire to.
However, because so few people with disabilities work, there is no expectation from others that they can, and consequently little is done to offer them the opportunity. Once our members internalise the concept of being 'cared for', that they depend others rather than being able to 'do for themselves', it can be extremely hard for them to envisage a path that might include all the wonderful opportunities that life has to offer. At Yellow Submarine, low expectation is our nemesis.
We know that there is a significant gap between the capabilities and skills of young adults leaving education, and the skills and confidence required when joining the workplace. This gap, without ongoing training and support, is virtually insurmountable. Isolation, lifelong worklessness and dependence on family and the State are the overriding outcomes.Our members and their parents tell us that turning 18 is often not the exciting, promising coming of age that a non-learning disabled person might enjoy. They describe anxiety, fear and desperation in trying to find a suitable path for their child.
Pathway to Employment, the programme for which we are seeking funding, encompasses three tiers of training, designed to allow members to build on their existing skills and strengths, through the medium of a fully operational, public facing city-centre cafe. The cafe offers customers a positive and inspiring of what people with learning disabilities are capable of.
The first tier of training is a supported work experience group, which enables those with higher support needs to be involved in work without too much pressure - contributing to our cafe enterprises at their own pace whilst learning the conventions of the workplace and key life skills. The second and third tiers are 6 months and 12 months in duration respectively, and provide a holistic and tailored package of training that allows trainees to gain qualifications in Employability and Key Skills, as well as increased social contact, confidence and direction. On completion of their training, we support our graduates to gain appropriate employment within the local community.
We have witnessed many spectacular and awe-inspiring outcomes. One of our parents told it best:
"When A was due to leave college, we spoke to the local disabilities employment advisor who basically said 'claim everything you can and he never needs to get a job'. At that point A was basically living almost a hermit life, very little social contact, seldom even bothering to get dressed, and living on the computer. Since being at Yellow Submarine we have seen a slow but steady increase in confidence, control and sociability, and this has increased since he began his Traineeship in the autumn. Self control is a major improvement as is the ability to accept changes much more readily. We truly believe that Yellow Submarine is his best chance of living anything close to a normal life".
We would use an Aviva grant to pay the salary of a part-time Work Experience Manager, whose role is key in ensuring the hard work our trainees have put in to their traineeship translates into a sustainable paid position. They support a range of potential employers in the local community to assess our trainees accurately, understand their needs, and make reasonable adaptations. This work is unfunded - we fundraise continuously to ensure that we can be available to our trainees beyond the end of their course to support their transition into employment.