Handy way to help

14 August 2019 | North East England

Natural Ability

Natural Ability charity helps young people with learning disabilities find work to fulfil their potential.

If you need someone to do a few jobs around the house in Hexham, you could hire a unique crew of handymen and women.

A pioneering charity called Natural Ability, based in the town, has set up a Handyperson Service, offering help with everything from gardening and fencing to decorating and DIY. And what sets this team apart is the fact that they all have learning disabilities, and some have conditions such as Down’s syndrome or Autism.

It is part of Natural Ability’s mission to offer new opportunities to people with learning disabilities who enjoy being outdoors and active. They also support adults with learning disabilities to live independently in their own homes, helping them work towards their goals and aspirations in all elements of their life.

Dave Rosbotham is lead supervisor for the Handyperson Project, and he is proud of his team of young workers. They are all hard working and enthusiastic and put in the extra mile to complete their work.

“They are paid the going rate, just like anyone else, as they should be,” says Dave. “Every young person deserves to find a role in life where they feel valued and important and if they can make a contribution to society all the better. They are more capable than they are given credit for. They get excited to be involved and are actually very skilled.”

The Handyperson Service recently completed a project in a local school in Hexham where they came in and built an allotment, raised flowerbeds and completed some vital maintenance. The project was such a success it was entered into a competition and won.

Dave, who works with the charity, says: “All the young men and women I work with grow enormously in confidence while they are with us. It is just about giving them the opportunities that everyone else has. At the start even a little task is daunting but it didn’t take long working with us before they take to the task with gusto. They really are the greatest bunch and work so hard.”

As well as the Handyperson Service, Natural Ability offer a Day Farming project which provides a unique chance for people of all abilities to work outdoors, learn new skills, gain qualifications and play a valuable role in the community. Activities can include land-based skills, horticulture, woodland management, environmental work and animal care.

Nicola Crawford, from Natural Ability, explains: “We aim to create an environment where people with learning and other disabilities live and work as valued and contributing members of the community, having excellent quality of life with purposeful employment, lifelong learning and pride in their achievements.

“The charity was founded ten years ago by two friends, one of whom has a son with Down’s syndrome. They wanted to make sure he had the same opportunities as everyone else. We are based in the North Pennines, and so being in a very rural setting, it can be more difficult to access the same opportunities as people living in a big town or city. But it is important that everyone is given the same chance.”

Recently the charity purchased a van to enable people with learning disabilities to carry out basic DIY jobs, agricultural as well as horticultural work such as small fencing jobs, and track and drainage maintenance for farmers, land owners and people living in remote areas.

Dave adds: “This has definitely been the most satisfying job I have done. Helping others achieve their potential is so satisfying.”

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