Mencap's Changemakers is a year-long project to rally hundreds of people with a learning disability that will see 50 community impact projects established across the country.
Latest figures from the Department for Education show that 16% of working age young people under 25 are NEET (not in education, employment or training).
Research suggests that those with a learning disability are three times more likely to be NEET.
Changemakers is a year-long project that will see 50 community impact projects established across the country.
Launched in April by Mencap, it aims to involve 850 young people with a learning disability, between the ages of 13 and 25, in community volunteering and activism.
Mencap's Changemakers is about promoting a culture of volunteering, but it is also about politicising young people with a learning disability, getting them to think about issues in their communities that affect them and how they can influence change.
The project has received £600,000 through the Social Action Fund – a Cabinet Office fund designed to encourage organisations to create social action opportunities, as part of the Big Society initiative. Changemakers works alongside Mencap's Inspire Me project, which aims to change the lives of 25,000 young people with a learning disability and their families.
Claire Smith, Mencap's participation and learning manager for children and young people, says it is vital for the project to impact the community:
It's an ambitious project. We want to give the young people new skills and teach them about their rights – so they can speak up about issues that matter to them.
We don't want 50 projects where groups are tidying their local park.
In Liverpool, the Changemakers group voted on different topics – from housing to hate crime – before agreeing to focus on the lack of employment options for people with a learning disability. As with all groups, the workshops resulted in a community impact project.
Calling themselves the Want to Work, Can Work group, the Liverpool Changemakers wrote to Maria Miller – who was then the disabilities minister – detailing their personal job-searching experiences. They are also contacting employees of local businesses, to show them what great colleagues they would be.