There is no such thing as a ‘typical day’ at our clubs and playschemes!
I’m Dana, the Clubs and Playschemes Coordinator at Leeds Mencap. I started at Leeds Mencap as a volunteer on our playschemes, before getting a job, first on the playschemes, then at one of our youth clubs too, before getting my current role late last year.
A team of amazing staff and I run youth clubs for children and young people aged 8-25 years and playschemes during the holidays for 4-18 year olds with additional needs, as well as a club for siblings of those with additional needs. These activities provide a chance for members to socialise, play and share experiences, as well as providing parents and carers invaluable respite.
There is no such thing as a ‘typical day’ at our clubs and playschemes! Exactly what we offer and what our children get out of these activities definitely differs from child to child! We plan our activities around the wide range of children’s specific needs and interests. For some children attending the clubs, it can offer a time to develop confidence and friendships with peers. For some, it can be about developing independence and practicing ‘real-life’ skills such as cooking or baking, as well as finding out more about the importance of exercise, or healthy eating. For others, our activities may provide a time to play and explore different environments, often through the senses when we do messy or sensory play.
Our clubs and playschemes are enjoyed by the attendees, but also benefit the parents too. Here is some of the feedback we have received:
‘This continues to be a lifeline for us during holidays and a welcome chance for my daughter to meet & play with peers in a suitable environment’ Parent of a child who attends.
‘It has given me some place to escape with people that understand what it’s like to have a disabled sibling.’ Molly who attends Sibling Group
‘We cannot recommend these playschemes enough! My boys find them fun. And they’re especially helpful if your child depends on routine. My boys love it!’ Parent
‘I like coming to Leeds Mencap because it gives my parents a chance to do things for themselves and have some time on their own, and then it gives me a chance to come and see my friends and my boyfriend.’ Emily who attends Friday Club
Unfortunately, the impact of COVID restrictions has meant that for a lot of our members they can’t get out to see friends or do other things that they usually enjoy. We have worked hard to adapt and to keep our activities going in a variety of ways such as Zoom sessions, activity videos as well as face-to-face sessions. Doing this has allowed the members to maintain interactions with their friends, having time to do something a bit different for a while, whilst still keeping safe.
Watching our children and young people develop is very satisfying, knowing that they are having fun, making friends and gaining essential skills needed for their futures.