Peer mentor project to help young people launches in the Black Country

A new mentoring project to help develop social opportunities for young people with autism and learning disabilities has launched in the Black Country, offering step-down support from a pioneering local keyworker service.

Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Dudley Voices for Choice have worked in collaboration to launch the Kidscape project which sees young people work with their peers who have a shared experience of autism and learning disabilities.

The project has developed from the success of the Trust’s keyworker service, which provides holistic, non-clinical support for young people with learning disabilities and/or autism, to help them avoid hospital admission. The Kidscape project offers tailored support to young people who have accessed and received support from a keyworker but no longer require this intensive level of support.

Young people who are supported by Kidscape will mutually decide to have support from a peer mentor with a similar lived experience who can help them develop their interests. Whether a young person wants someone to go to gigs with or a walk and a chat, the peer mentor is on hand to help open up their social world.

Cameron Richards and Tom Hartle, from self-advocacy organisation Dudley Voices for Choice, are volunteers for Kidscape. They are both using their experience of autism to be peer mentors for young people in a similar situation. Cameron said:

“We are the superheroes of the real world. We make sure kids have enough cover to protect themselves when needed and are able to fly off into a new way of living.”

Tom added: “We’re here to help young people get back into the community in the safest way possible.

“If they enjoyed going for a walk in the park or feel a bit anxious to do so, we will there to shadow to ensure they are safe. We are here to enable them to gain the confidence to do what they used to love doing.”

Rosie Millar, Senior LDA Children and Young People’s Commissioning Manager at Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Through the support of our experts by experiences, parent carer forums and third sector organisations, we have seen meaningful services develop and help empower young people to access the right support.

“Following listening to the voice of our young people, we heard that they want to be supported to ‘access life’. I am so humbled to work alongside a number of fantastic people to continue to make strides in positive change.

“Kidscape is yet another piece of the puzzle that was missing, I hope that young people accessing the service will be empowered to reach their potential and enjoy the social aspect of life.

“We are committed to continuing on this journey and would encourage anyone to reach out with feedback to help us continue to make positive changes.”

Currently in its early stages, Kidscape peer mentoring is currently available to young people who have been supported by the keyworker service, but it is hoped that through ongoing co-production and evaluation the service will expand and adapt to support more young people within the Black Country.


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