With a grant of £1,000 from the Akzo Nobel International Paint Fund at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, Skills 4 Work (Gateshead) offered work experience to six young people with learning disabilities. They were given the opportunity to organise a monthly community lunch programme, which ran within a housing complex for older people in Gateshead.
Most of the young people had never undertaken work experience before, so they were supported by two members of staff and two community volunteers to plan and run the community lunch programme. As well as providing individual boxed afternoon tea, they organised a guest speaker or created a theme, and hosted the event too. The lunches provide an opportunity for softer skills development whilst creating chances for leadership and peer support in a relaxed setting.
Su Legg, Senior Philanthropy Advisor at the Community Foundation recently visited the project with Angela Johnson and Remya Norris from Akzo Nobel, to see first-hand the impact it had made:
“I was delighted to join the guests and young people at the lunch in Gateshead last week. It’s clear that these opportunities not only benefit the young people in developing their skills, but provide social interaction for the guests, some of whom would otherwise eat alone, and who obviously take so much pleasure in attending”.
Each month over 80 guests attend the lunches and as it’s been so well received, plans are afoot to give a second cohort of young people the opportunity to get involved.
Tracey Wallace from Skills 4 Work (Gateshead) said:
“It was a pleasure to meet Su, Angela and Remya, and we were very grateful for the positive feedback we received from them and the time they spent with us talking to our team.
“The lunch programme has focused very much on soft skills development – working as part of a team, recognising your contribution, talking to residents, developing communication skills with volunteers and staff. All of the young people have made very positive progress and have progressed into their own weekly placement.
“The comments from the residents have been amazing and it is clear they really value the time and effort everyone has put into the lunch programme.”