I’m Jen and I’m the founder of Butterflies Youth CIC, we run a Clubs and activities for young people with disabilities across Essex. When a young person registers with our services we go out to meet them and their parent and every parent who has registered their child has with us has stated their main target for their child coming along to Butterflies is for them to make a friend or a group of friends. The young people have stated they feel sad or angry that they see/hear their peers out with friends and they cannot do this, they often blame their parents even though it would be unsafe for them to go out unaccompanied. Another problem is other parents often are not confident or competent to meet the needs of a child with disabilities, so they do not get invited to parties or round their peers houses. Socially there is a major inequality in social opportunities for young people with disabilities, in comparison to their peers. When we asked the young people what is important to them here are some of their responses they have given me permission to share- Everyone at school goes shopping on a Saturday and meet up in town, it’s not fair I’m not invited and my mum won’t let me. When it was my birthday I just went to the harvester with my mum and my nan, I saw girls all with balloons coming in for their friends birthday and they laughed and chatted and I wished it was me getting balloons and having friends. I wish I could go bowling and to the cinema with people my age and they would say I am a good friend for going bowling and the cinema, I would say they were a good friend if we could go bowling together. I’m with my mum all the time and I do love my mum but I want to go out with friends and sometimes be away from my mum for a little bit. When we asked the young people for suggestions on how we could improve their social life and help them to manage and support friendships these were their responses; I know I have to have an adult close to help me when I need it, but I want to be with my friends and the adult nearby to help me and not inbetween me and my friends. We want to be like everyone else, we want to go to the fair or the fireworks when they are in town and be able to talk about when we went out with our friends. Get people to come out with us who aren’t embarrassing and know it is our day out for the kids and theyre just there to help if we need it that would be good. We like staff member Ben, he’s cool and we like being with someone cool. Let us take selfies and dont photo bomb us. This whole project will be led and directed by the young people in each small friendship group, we will support them and encourage them to be as independent as safely possible. For some young people we will require to remain next to for safety, other young people we may be able to sit on a table next to them and support when it’s needed and for other young people we may be able to wait at a shop entrance and allow them to go into a shop independently. Each group will be risk assessed and matched to the needs, likes and dislikes of each child and the level of independence given to each group will be dependent on this. We will use the money raised to create a team to be assistants for each group, to fund transport for each group and to create a schedule of social Butterflies groups across Essex.