The charity was initially created in 1951 by a small group of Sheffield parents, all of whom were determined to make life a little better for their children, who had all been born with learning disabilities.
Nearly seven decades on, the charity - which is an independent associate of National Mencap - regularly supports over 700 adults and children with learning difficulties, and their families, in the city - hosting weekly art clubs, lunch groups, social clubs and an Out & About Scheme, which provides social and leisure opportunities for its members and respite for family carers.
“In the 1950s, the world was a very different place for people born with learning difficulties,” said the charity’s chief executive officer, Janet Sullivan, who has been working with Sheffield Mencap & Gateway - as it is now known - for the past 12 years.
“There wasn’t the same opportunities that there is now. These parents, a group of about 20, came together at the beginning of the 1950s to make a stand on behalf of their children. They raised the money, they found the land, and it’s amazing to see - all these years later - what has come as a result of that move. Some of those original parents are still with us, continuing the work we do, which is quite amazing. We also have an incredible team of about 200 volunteers that keep our services running day in and day out across the city.
“At Sheffield Mencap we have a vision: that all people with a learning disability, and their carers, in Sheffield feel valued, included and respected. We believe that everyone should be supported to reach their full potential and to live the life they choose. We achieve this by providing our members with numerous opportunities to help them to reach their potential in life and by fostering
independence, so they can live the life they choose.
“We aim to assist our members and their carers in many ways, particularly in the areas that have been identified by our members as the most important to them, including supporting them in friendships and relationships, working with their families and carers, supporting people to achieve their education goals, and improving the health of people with a learning disability and their families.”
As of 2017, Sheffield Mencap is the leading provider of training and support for adults with learning difficulties in Sheffield.
The company provides over 120,000 hours of support per year through challenging, meaningful activities for people with learning disabilities, and support and respite for their families.
The charity runs an Activity and Learning Hub, which operates every day from its base at Norfolk Park, and supports over 100 students across the week to improve their daily living skills and skills for working life. Students tackle a range of activities including literacy and numeracy, self advocacy, IT skills, sport and exercise, music, arts and crafts. Everyone participates in drama, arts and
crafts, gardening and cookery and they also help to run a highly successful cafe, Mencafe, at lunchtimes.
Gateway social clubs run weekly on four nights, organised by age group, as well as running regular weekend parties and a weekend trip each year. On average a total of 470 people attend activities at Norfolk Lodge every week.
The Sharing Caring Project works to support the oldest and most vulnerable family carers, providing support in a multitude of different, areas including planning for the future, as well as liaising with other organisations and professionals to ensure families receive the support they require.
Janet added: “We also support older adults with learning disabilities and their carers who live in the community. The Sunday Lunch Club is a monthly service, which provides a hot lunch, fun and friendship to 30 elderly carers and the person they care for. This club is funded entirely through charitable donation and reaches some of the most marginalised in the community.”
The Out and About Scheme provides social and leisure opportunities for its members and respite for their family carers, via activities such as walking, bowling, snooker, football and fitness, in small groups based on shared interests and friendships.
In addition to these core activities which operate throughout the week, Sheffield Mencap boasts a range of projects for children with learning difficulties. These regular groups include Shine out on Saturdays - a Saturday-morning performance and creative arts club; Thank Gateway It’s Friday - a youth group for children with learning difficulties; and Communicate - a service which focuses on boosting children’s social skills.
Janet said: “We’re hugely grateful to our incredible team of volunteers as their involvement is absolutely vital in helping us to keep everything running. We’re always on the lookout for more people, of all ages, willing to give their time and we have become specialists in recruiting volunteers from hard to reach communities, as one of the few charities who will accept volunteers from the refugee and asylum centre. We also offer college and university placements for social care, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy students. If you’d like to come for a look around, to find out more, we’d love to hear from you.”
Visit www.sheffieldmencap.org.uk for more details on the charity.