Since we were set up in 1969 (with the aim of connecting local people and community organisations for mutual benefit), the Volunteer Centre team has learnt a lot about the barriers people can face to helping others and improving their own lives in the process. Some of our responses, enabling people to get over those barriers, have turned into independent organisations, like the excellent Nova. Others, like the InsideOut work we do with people with criminal records, or our New Opportunities programme that supports people on their journey to a secure, rewarding, paid job, have a decade or two of success under their belts and are just two of the projects we run alongside our volunteer brokerage service.
I’m very pleased to say that we are about to add to the options local people have for empowering themselves. With funding from RBKC, and together with local partners, we will be able to offer disabled and learning disabled young people, and young people struggling with emotional health, practical support to find and secure voluntary work, work experience, and paid employment that matches their requirements for accessibility and inclusion while enabling them to achieve their goals.
The new project, which we are tentatively calling Supported Access, is focused on younger people living in Kensington & Chelsea, from around 16 to 25 years old (we’re open to a conversation if you’re a bit younger or older). It acknowledges that starting something new – from an apprenticeship to a college or university course, or a paid or unpaid role with a new team of people – can make us anxious, perhaps anxious enough to prevent us making the best of the opportunity, or even anxious enough to decide that it’s safer to stay at home than risk a new place full of strangers. We might also have to overcome unhelpful assumptions that people who don’t know us make about us – perhaps that a challenge we face with one activity means we will struggle generally, or that younger people aren’t as diligent or committed as someone older. Supported Access will partner with employers to challenge stereotypes and develop more inclusive environments for volunteering and paid work, while helping young people to be ready for the challenges of new roles and all that comes with that, not just before your first day, but until you find your feet.
If you want to take the next step, motivation and at least one goal to work towards are the only things you need – we will be on the journey with you and you can rely on us for help and advice at every stage.
Michael Ashe, CEO