People with learning disabilities who are supported by Grace Eyre tell us that they want to be part of their communities, doing the things they want to do. Our Grace Eyre Membership scheme gives people a way to be part of our community, share ideas and resources, and help to shape the charity for the future. Membership isn’t just for people with learning disabilities, it’s also for their families, Shared Lives carers, and for our very own staff. Our hope is that we will create a great group of members who are engaged with Grace Eyre.
Take Becky, for example.
She has a learning disability, has been involved with Grace Eyre for a number of years, and is one of our members.
When she was growing up, Becky lived at home with her Mum and sisters but as she became a young woman she wanted to become more independent; so with the support of her Mum decided to move into a Shared Lives arrangement. Shared Lives is where people with support needs are matched with an approved carer and share their family, and community life, with them. Becky was very much involved with her carer’s family and learnt valuable life skills, such as, helping to make lunch, washing up and enjoying simple cooking.
It was during this period that she met Toby – her future husband. She remembers their first date in a pub and her Mum wanting to chat to Toby on the phone to find out a little bit more about him but barely being able to hear him over the noise of the football playing in the background! Their relationship developed and they celebrated their wedding day at Grace Eyre’s Angel Cake Café! Following this, just like any other young couple, they decided that they wanted to move in together. After various meetings and discussions to ensure that everything would be safe for them, the couple moved into a Grace Eyre Housing property where they’ve now been living happily for over five years.
‘We’ve been living in our own flat for over five years now. We were the first couple to move into a Grace Eyre Housing flat! We can come and go as we please and have support at home if we want it. It feels good to have our own flat. Grace Eyre Housing made sure it was right for us. We have our own space and a nice bathroom. We do what we want to do and we can invite our friends over for a cup of tea.’
Becky gets nine hours a week support from Grace Eyre’s outreach team who help her grocery shopping, cooking and also accompany her to the pool for her cherished swimming sessions.
Her time at Grace Eyre has also taken her further afield. In May 2016, Becky, in collaboration with Dee MacDonald, social science researcher at the University of Brighton, produced a film highlighting the challenges faced by adults with learning disabilities when using public transport which took her to the Canadian city of Toronto.
Through the Grace Eyre’s Employment Project Becky has had the opportunity to volunteer at a popular meeting place in the heart of their community – the Garden Café – where Becky gets to practice important skills such as customer service, team working, and time management.
‘Although I felt shy at first, I now feel very confident. It’s busy. I like it like that and get to meet lots of people. I put my apron on and get on with it!’
In her role as a Grace Eyre Ambassador, Becky represents the people who use Grace Eyre services – she gets to discuss and have an input on any changes that are happening at Grace Eyre.
If I wasn’t a part of Grace Eyre, I wouldn’t be able to do all the things I do. I can take part in the activities; I like seeing my friends AND helping my friends too. As an organisation, Grace Eyre have been really helpful – they help with many aspects of my life and have supported me through various changes which I otherwise would have struggled with.
We love showing the world how rich and full the lives of people with learning disabilities can be, and our vision is for a society where people with learning disabilities are respected as equal citizens, are part of and contribute to their communities, and where people can fulfil their dreams and wishes.