New Forest group for people with learning disabilities is 'vital'

New Forest Mencap life skills group
New Forest Mencap offers life skills workshops for people with learning disabilities [BBC]

Groups helping people with learning disabilities develop life skills play a "vital role", research has found.

Dr Rachel Harrison from the University of Winchester has led a study looking into the impact of support groups.

She interviewed 40 people with learning disabilities, who receive help from New Forest Mencap.

The charity offers life skills workshops to help people learn how to manage money, cook and develop relationships.

Dr Rachel Harrison
Dr Harrison said she conducted the research because she feels people with learning disabilities are "often overlooked" [BBC]

Dr Harrison said she started the study because she feels there is a lack of research into the needs of people with learning disabilities.

She explained: "I think we don't really understand people with learning disabilities. We can understand older people, we can understand children, but we can't necessarily understand people who for so long were locked away in institutions and haven't been part of our communities or our societies.

"These are people who aren't necessarily understood and who are most often overlooked."

As part of her research, Dr Harrison asked participants what they valued about the current provision from New Forest Mencap and what changes they would like to see in the future.

Rachel attends group classes in the New Forest and helped with Dr Harrison's research.

She said she enjoyed the current activities provided by charities like Mencap and would like to see more opportunities to learn budget skills, baking and assertiveness, Rachel added: "I would like to learn how to say no to people in some situations."

Rachel said she would like to see more opportunities to learn budget skills, baking and assertiveness [BBC]

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

It found New Forest Mencap "plays a vital role in meeting the needs of people with intellectual disabilities" and identified a need for groups which teach how to develop relationships, including with a romantic partner.

Chair of the charity, Mike Snell, said funding services for people with learning disabilities is a huge challenge and welcomed the independent research.

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