Mayor backs project to help youngsters with learning difficulties

Basingstoke Gazette: Dan Putty, the Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane, is urging local businesses to support a project for youngsters with learning difficulties. Buy this photo Dan Putty, the Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane, is urging local businesses to support a project for youngsters with learning difficulties.

THE borough’s first citizen is urging local businesses to support a project that could make a life-changing difference to young people with learning difficulties.

Basingstoke and Deane Mayor Councillor Dan Putty gave his backing to the Aspire project, being championed by Basingstoke Mencap, at the launch event at Sherfield School, which was attended by representatives from many local businesses.

The launch – which was organised with the support of the school and The Rotary Club of Basingstoke – heard the aim is to get Aspire up and running in 2014.

The aim of Aspire is to provide information, help and advice to young people with learning disabilities who are seeking further training or paid work after leaving school.

It is hoped that local businesses in the borough will support Aspire either by offering financial backing or by offering work, or work experience, to those taking part in the pilot scheme.

The Rotary Club has pledged to raise the £20,000 needed to fund the project and pay for a professional person to run the scheme. He or she will liaise between businesses and those benefiting from the project.

Cllr Putty said: “We all know how hard it is for young people leaving school in the current economic climate. Think how much harder it is then for young people with learning difficulties who face additional challenges, not least of which is prejudice from people who see disability rather than ability.

“It is from the recognition of this challenge that the Aspire project was born. This is a real opportunity for all of us to come together and make a difference in these young people’s lives. I am passionate about this project.”

The Mayor added: “On behalf of Aspire, I am asking you not just to consider providing financial support to the project, but also to challenge yourselves to think about how some of these young people could find a useful role in your business.”

Nicolette Walshe, a trustee at Basingstoke Mencap, said: “Today in Basingstoke, the options for young people with learning disabilities when they leave school are very limited. It’s extremely difficult for them and their families to find out what their options are.

“This is why we have created this project. We want to work in partnership with local businesses. Some of them are very good at trying to positively engage and provide opportunities for people with learning disabilities.”

She said that statistics show that employing a person with learning disabilities is financially beneficial to a business because they take less sick leave and are loyal, happy workers.

The idea of Aspire is to help businesses tailor roles to suit a person with learning disabilities, and to educate businesses about the benefits of hiring someone with learning disabilities.

Mrs Walshe said: “It’s about breaking down barriers.

If you have never encountered someone with a learning disability, you might have preconceived ideas which might be wrong.”

The project will run for 12 months, but if successful, it is hoped it will continue in the future, with the aim of creating more employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities.

Anyone interested in finding out more should contact Basingstoke Mencap on 01256 423886 or email office@basingstokemencap.org.uk.

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