Ok. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. But only in short bursts. I thought if I start to document these thoughts, it may a) give me a kick up the backside to explore it more fully b) contribute to discussion/different ways of engaging with young learning disabled people and c) maybe get some tips, experiences and links.
So, LB is 18 in a few weeks. He is very funny, hard working and sensible (in an unusual way) with some serious interests around transport, recycling and justice. “Transition” so far has been pretty shite as I’ve documented. The future is not looking bright.
The facts as I’ve gleaned them (not easy); He has one more full year at school after this one. After that, he will be entitled to direct payments to create support for him. What this means is not clear. There’s a chance of a further year at a local college to learn (more) life skills. Given that his sixth form are currently doing a cracking full on job of teaching life skills, I’m not sure that there is much point in an additional year. Well other than to occupy his time. After that, it’s day centres (shudder) or a life of being taken into town to go to the cinema, bowling or hanging out at home with a paid carer.
The fledgling plan..
To set up a small social enterprise scheme; get a loan, buy a small van, a mobile industrial shredder, employ a co-ordinator and run an odd job business. The odd jobbers. The idea is to draw on the strengths of LB and other young people and celebrate diversity/eccentricity. LB is an attention to detail kind of dude when pointed in the right direction and encouraged to stay there. Other young people I know have an infectious joy in meeting people (though not always joyful to their parents) and interacting, strength, humour, an ability to hang out cheerfully and other skills. The plan is to create a community presence where the odd jobbers become known about locally. People, and local businesses, enjoy the service they offer on a social, as well as financial, level. Driving round, collecting shredding, or bits for the dump, small deliveries and so on. Creating employment (for however many hours a week) and the associated benefits (productivity, achievement, activity, purpose, structure, pay and a social life) which is priceless.
There are enterprises that are doing similar type work across the country. I was pointed in the direction of Props who offer brilliant opportunities for young people in the Bristol area. But there are layers of hoops and bureaucracy to negotiate as local authorities interpret what direct payments can be spent on very differently. We had a taste of this when LB went on a “summer holiday” with a few other young men, funded through direct payments, only to come back with an extensive learning log. Oxfordshire county council insist learning outcomes are attached to funding. Props have had to create an accredited course for their enterprise. Choice and autonomy within a personalisation agenda? Forget it in practice.
These are early thoughts. It may be a vague, unattainable, undoable daydream. [Like my decluttering intentions..cough cough]. I’ve no idea how it could work in practice. But it feels better to think in terms of action. And involvement. Rather than just letting things pass by.