Stay West Scheme Launches ‘Realising Our Potential’ Project

The Stay West scheme, based here at Lakes College, has launched a new project with the aim of improving the life skills of people with learning disabilities. ‘Realising Our Potential’ is a three year venture that will focus on engaging beneficiaries in learning and tackling the underlying issues and barriers linked to their employment.

Stay West has created partnerships with employers, community groups and arts organisations to offer work placements and help improve work skills, confidence and communication. The scheme gained further funding from the Big Lottery Fund for the follow-on project which will incorporate positive cultural interventions such as fine art, music, local history, sport and creative writing. These are important areas that are often seen as peripheral for people with learning disabilities.

An event was held on Thursday 9th July to announce the launch, during which organisations and the local community could find out more about how to get involved. The evening consisted of presentations, audience participation activities and talks from beneficiaries about their experience on the Stay West programme.

To date Stay West has resulted in 85 new work placements in local businesses for learners with learning disabilities, 22 of whom also achieved either a Pathways Lifetime Skills or Just the Job qualification and 18 secured successful paid employment or ongoing voluntary work. In addition, 40 employer representatives accessed the project’s Disability Awareness Training programme. Realising Our Potential aims to develop and increase these numbers.

Ian Mitchell, Stay West Co-Ordinator comments “Stay West’s responsive, partnership approach, has resulted in each beneficiary gaining new skills with many achieving things they never thought possible, transforming their lives and the wider community. A lack of suitable facilities and opportunities for people with learning disabilities in West Cumbria, combined with a lack of assertiveness, greatly limits their choice. Realising Our Potential will explore further opportunities in the local community which will have a positive impact on our beneficiaries’ future.”

The beneficiaries have been taking part in health and fitness activities during the summer holidays as part of the new project. Working with the Cumbria SPAA Foundation, the students have been learning about how to lead a healthy lifestyle by participating in practical and classroom based sessions.

Andrew Moncrief is from Cleator Moor and has been part of Stay West and is now enjoying Realising Our Potential. He said “I really like being part of the group and so far I have enjoyed learning about healthy eating and playing dodgeball. I’ve been working at Muncaster doing some gardening and I’ll be going to help out at Florence Mine soon, but I’m happy to have something fun to keep me busy over the summer.”

Adam Chestney from Egremont added “It’s been great to meet new people and make more friends. The week has been good as I really like playing different sports and learning more about health and how to look after myself.”

Travis Coote, from Workington, is new to the group after attending the launch event. He comments “I love sports so I’ve found this week really fun. I’ve been able to make lots of new friends and play kick rounders. We’ve also had to do some homework but I’ve definitely enjoyed it. I’ll be going to work at Muncaster after summer which I’m also very excited about.”