We are a small social Centre with a big heart, for people with mild/moderate learning difficulties. We feel that many of these people fall the a loop of support. They aren't learning disabled enough to get direct payments or in some cases even ESA, so they can't afford to join in activities in the town put on for them. They are not mainstream enough though to feel they fit into mainstream community life so they quite often become isolated and lonely, sitting at home on their own. We have many on the autistic spectrum, people with acute epilepsy, visual and hearing impairments and some with no specific diagnosis. They can come to us for free, we have arts and music activities as well as board games, computers and many other activities for them to take part in for free. If we put on an activity that will cost money, we ask them first if they would like us to start that activity. We also have a coffee bar and a shop in which they can become volunteers and gain work experience. This all helps them to feel a part of something and their self esteem, self confidence and life skills grow enormously. We let them have a say in the running of the Centre which helps them to feel like they belong somewhere. We have watched many people blossom after becoming part of Unity life. When first coming to us they were shy and a little withdrawn, after being a part of us, they smile so much more and seeing the enthusiasm and delight on their faces when they are with us is very rewarding. We have also found that many of our mainstream volunteers (lead volunteers) are people that have come to us because they also feel they want to become a part of something after life for them has become lonely due to life circumstances. We have had many of these gain employment which they feel they would never have done if they hadn't gained confidence in themselves through us. Others prefer to stay with us because they are not after getting back into employment, just being a part of something and enjoy staying with us. That is another plus for our community.
We have "The kitchen table" which is the hub of our coffee bar. Here, we sit with volunteers and service users and discuss what activities we can do that people would like. We then make a plan for those activities, with our service users so they are involved. We also discuss fundraising ideas, any problems that are occurring (that are non confidential) and many other things that contribute to the running of the Centre. We have monthly committee meetings and senior management meetings. We monitor outcomes of everything we do to find out the outcome and decide if we are doing well or need to change. We have a great relationship with the local press who are happy to advertise activities we put on, this helps to let the community know what we have on and advertises our shop so we get more customers, the shop income covers the rent of the building. We work closely with Royal Mencap, they don't govern us, but they are there to guide us, we turn to them on policies and any other matter that we want support with so we are doing our best. We pay someone to do our admin 16 hours per week which keeps all our paperwork in order. We are a third party Hate/Hate Crime reporting Centre and Stay Safe Centre, so this shows our community that we are serious about keeping them safe. All volunteers have a personal folder which we keep all their details in, including any training we give them. The training helps them with knowledge and certificates and helps us to know our volunteers are gaining knowledge in their work. Chair and Vice chair are on a Police committee, we meet as a group if any of our service users have got themselves into trouble. We are there to give our opinion and advice on the person(s) involved and as a group we agree on a way to proceed forward. This is valuable in letting our service users know how much we are willing to support them, another thing to make them feel supported and safe.