Charity wants to help more people with learning disabilities
PUBLISHED: 07:16 09 March 2020 | UPDATED: 07:16 09 March 2020
A charity which helps people with learning disabilities is desperate to raise awareness of the support it offers.
North Somerset People First (NSPF) empowers people with learning disabilities and those with autism spectrum disorders by providing them with the opportunities and support to speak up for themselves and take control of their own lives.
The charity provides education courses, speaking-up groups, friendship, walking and support groups, personal planning and advocacy services.
Marina Turner, from NSPF, said: "There is a common misconception people with learning disabilities get so much support, but lots don't have any family and don't get any support for things like paying bills or visiting the doctors.
"We run educational courses covering a range of topics, including safety in the house, eating, anger management, social skills and sexual relationships.
"We also run friendship groups and peer support - where people can help each other and give advice."
NSPF was set up in 1991 by a small group of people who wanted to improve the lives of those with a learning disability by introducing self-advocacy.
The charity works for and is led by the voices of people with learning disabilities.
Most of its funding comes from North Somerset Council, while a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund in 2018 enabled the charity to launch its Better Life Service.
The service includes psychoeducational courses - on issues such as anxiety, safety and anger - advocacy and person-centred planning, fitness groups and peer support, which help to decrease social isolation.
Funding from the Lloyds Bank Foundation also enabled NSPF to launch the Moving on with My Life service, which helps people to plan and prepare for more independence.
Chief executive Michelle Burnett said: "The provision of our 'Better Life' service has enabled us to support people who find it difficult to access mainstream mental health services, as well as being more inclusive in engaging with a higher number of people who are not in receipt of a social care service.
"Our 'Moving on with My life' service helps to ensure that people with learning disabilities can move towards greater independence and an increased quality of life which they choose themselves."
Shaun Harvey, aged 54, is just one of the members who has benefited from the charity's support.
Shaun, from Nailsea, has had a stammer all his life and suffers from mental health issues.
He received support to help him apply for employment support allowance, which took nearly a year to go through.
Marina said: "If it wasn't for an NSPF staff member supporting Shaun at court, he wouldn't have attended.
"The charity has also assisted Shaun at hospital appointments, as he has said he would not go to any hospital appointments alone because of his fear of doctors.
"He would previously have ignored appointment letters from the doctors or hospitals.
"He moved back to North Somerset last year after family members had been taking advantage of him for his money.
"Shaun explained that, if it wasn't for NSPF, he would have stayed isolating himself at home and doesn't actually think he would be here today."
Shaun is keen for NSPF to organise evening activities to help him feel less alone.
Marina said: "Shaun is constantly worried that NSPF will disappear because he's received so much support in the past which has gradually diminished due to funding cuts.
"He still has suicidal thoughts but has extra medication that helps to control this.
"The mental health charities all promote a telephone number which isn't something Shaun can use due to his stammer - just making a telephone call can cause Shaun to feel stressed, which then attracts negative thoughts. Shaun used to see a psychiatrist until the funding was cut.
"Until Shaun found NSPF, he used to stay at home, seven days a week, and never went out."
NSPF would love to reach out to more people who would benefit from its services.
To find out more about the charity, call 01934 426086, email firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to www.nspf.co.uk You can also keep up to date through the charity's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Northsomersetpeoplefirst
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