Additional research and support by Jessica Aldridge.
I would describe myself as having additional needs, and need support to go out and do things I enjoy. With the support of my family, friends and school, I can go to nearby shops by myself, meet friends at the cinema and go for a meal afterwards.
Having support means my independence and self-confidence have increased quite a bit. This has allowed me to volunteer at Fair Play, a charity that supports young people aged 0-25 with disabilities to access fun activities alongside their mainstream (non-disabled) peers.
I have volunteered at Fair Play’s Play Day and supported disabled people to enjoy themselves. I understand how they can easily get upset or confused, and it’s rewarding to help them become more self-sufficient.
I recently visited Fair Play, this time as part of Exposure’s ‘I’m Inspired’ team, to talk to staff about what they do. I found the team helpful and approachable, and very willing to discuss the different projects they organise.
I learned that the organisation was founded in 1994 and that they fill a gap in the area.
“What makes us unique is our focus on inclusion – we’re one of the few organisations that provides one-to-one support for disabled young people,” says operations manager Jenny Daybell.
Fair Play helps young people “in any way we can”, she continues. “For example, if someone wanted to go rock climbing, we would find a support worker to go with them. The same goes for community groups, after-school clubs or play schemes. Our focus is the young person’s interests.”
Staff will sometimes do home visits to meet children and their families, and to find out what support the child needs and what activities they enjoy.
The charity has also created a new project, Fair Play for Families. Project leader, Karen Baker, says this aims “to encourage families with disabled children to join in with mainstream activities, to become more resilient, and to connect with other parents going through the same experience of caring for a disabled child.”
I was very interested to hear about this project. It’s important that families can go on trips with their special needs children.
The project will also help parents meet other parents of children with special needs – they can support each other to feel less alone, and more able to go out and do fun things together.
I ask Jenny what qualities Fair Play look for in a prospective employee who wants to work as a support worker.
“It’s not an easy job, so you have to want to do it, instead of doing it because it means you’ll get paid,” she tells me. “You’d need to enjoy working with children, and encouraging them to try new activities. It’s important that you can adapt activities, so everyone can participate.”
What would her advice be to young people looking for their first job?
“Be yourself!” Jenny says. “If you exaggerate (or even lie!) on your CV and you get the job, your employer will find out soon enough that you’re not actually able to do it.”
Deputy manager Geraldine Delmaestro adds her tips: “Do a job you’d actually like to do! It’s important to be able to enjoy work so you don’t dread going there every day.”
To find out more about the support Fair Play offers, or to apply to work as a support play worker, contact Jenny Daybell at email@example.com.
This article was produced with support from the Young Barnet Foundation
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