For immediate release Wednesday 13 December 2017
Belfast-based charity awarded over £300,000 to empower disabled young people
Disability charity, Belfast-based Autonomie, is launching a new pilot project supporting disabled young people in Belfast and surrounding areas thanks to National Lottery funding.
The charity run entirely by volunteers has been awarded £334,828 to launch the What Next? Project, a three year project that will directly benefit 120 disabled school leavers and families.
The project is due to start in January 2018 and will involve Autonomie opening a new centre - LILAC House (Linked Independent Living and Advice Centre) in South Belfast.
What Next? Project will help disabled youngsters aged between 14 and 25 who often face difficulties moving into adult life and will deliver programmes on building self-confidence, life skills, networking to build friendships and even a chance to try independent living at purpose-designed units on the premises.
As well as helping young people to achieve greater independence and improved quality of life, the project funded by Big Lottery Fund's Empowering Young People will actively engage families.
Unlike Autonomie's current project Freedom2Choose, which works exclusively with disabled young people, this pilot scheme will involve setting up activity, training and support programmes for parents, carers and siblings.
Autonomie Voluntary Co-ordinator, Trevor Boyle, said: "We are overjoyed that the Big Lottery has decided to fund our project and invest in empowering young people with additional needs to develop the skills to live independently and achieve their potential.
"What Next? Project means we can provide vital support to local families living with disability.
"Young people have been very involved in the planning of the project and those who can will deliver elements of the activities programme themselves.
"There are very few options for young people once they leave school. It is a very isolating time.
"Our research shows that when these young people leave Children's services it can take up to five years for them to show up on the social services radar. Instead they're confined to their rooms, living life through social media. They rarely leave the house."
"Through supported learning and recreational opportunities What Next? will help young people strengthen their support networks and help them lead a fuller, more independent life.
"Using trained facilitators around 20 young people per year will even have the chance to experience independent living in purpose-designed modern and accessible facilities at LILAC House – helping young people transition more successfully into adult life and their own housing.
"Thanks to all our volunteers, partners and most importantly the young people we've worked with for helping to make the project such a great success.
"We couldn't do the work we do without input from a wide range of people and the local community."
Open 7 days a week – on a part time basis, including some evenings – the project will deliver programmes including life skills training and provide practical life experience opportunities.
Julie Harrison, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “I am delighted to announce this grant under the Empowering Young People programme and I want to say thanks to all the National Lottery players who have helped make this possible.
“We want to fund great projects that put young people in the lead in increasing their skills and confidence and support them to have stronger relationships so they can cope better with the challenges they face and reach their potential. We are looking forward to seeing the positive impact this project will make for many young people in Belfast.”
The project is due to start in January 2018 and will also be recruiting youth workers and volunteers.
The award-winning organisation was founded in 2009 and has helped lots of young people increase their independence and reduce their levels of social isolation.
Notes to editors
L - R Niamh Quinn (aged 20), Megan Coates (19) and Robyn Elliott (17) young people attend Autonomie's social and skills development project Freedom2Choose.
Autonomie was set up in 2009 and was formerly known as LILAC Service. Entirely run by volunteers the award-winning organisation supports children and young people with a physical or learning disability and allied additional needs in Belfast and surrounding areas. The support offered is through training and activities programmes, Independent living skills and practical advice for families.
What Next? Project is a new exciting phase for the organisation - A pilot project that will help over 120 disabled young people transition more successfully into adult life and is due to start in January 2018. Autonomie will also open a new accessible centre LILAC House (Linked Independent Living and Advice Centre) in South Belfast. It will provide a full programme of What Next? Activities using facilities including a training room, meeting/community use room, kitchen for independent living skills training and a youth-centred drop-in/recreation area.
Open 7 days a week – on a part time basis, including some evenings – the project will deliver life skills training and provide practical life experience opportunities.
It aims to promote self-confidence; support active participation; encourage 'natural' interaction; development of friendships and enable and encourage independence. Using trained facilitators around 20 young people will even get to try short-term independent living in purpose-designed accessible facilities on the premises.
Over the next 3 years What Next? Project also will deliver activity, training and support programmes for parents, carers and siblings. Autonomie's patron author Oliver Jeffers will officially open LILAC House in January 2018.
Follow Autonomie on Twitter at @AutonomieInfo and visit www.autonomie.org.uk
About the Big Lottery Fund:
The Big Lottery Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK. It puts people in the lead to improve their lives and communities, often through small, local projects.
It is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year it awarded £583 million and supported around 12,000 projects across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes.
Since June 2004 it has awarded over £8 billion to projects that change the lives of millions of people.
About Empowering Young People:
Empowering Young People is a grants programme designed to support projects in Northern Ireland that give young people aged 8 to 25 the ability to overcome the challenges they face. The Empowering Young People programme can support projects working with young people across Northern Ireland including young carers, young people with a learning disability and young people who face barriers to education, training or employment.