On Wednesday 3 December it is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and in recognition of that we will be promoting examples of the range of Inclusion work that takes place across our network and in our programmes.

Each day of London Youth Inclusion Week we will be posting new content on our website from our members, our outdoor centres and our programmes.

To kick things off we spoke to Jim Shepley Executive Director at Haringey Shed, a London Youth member club, about their work with young people with a disability.

Tell us about your youth club and the work you do with young people

Haringey Shed is an inclusive theatre and performing arts company for children and young people aged between 7-16 years old (up to 25 year for young people with a disability or learning needs). Around a third of our participants have a disability or learning support need. We provide a range of term time after school activities and holiday programmes as well as outreach work in the community, working in local schools and community centres. Haringey Shed’s repertoire of inclusive theatretechniques and our ‘no auditions’ policy strive to create an inclusive and supportive environment in which every young person has a part to play and is valued and respected. We believe every young person, regardless of their ability and background should have access to a safe, respectful and creative environment. “Where everyone has a part to play” is a slogan that we are very proud of. Watch the video below to see some of our members, volunteers and supporters.

Have you seen a positive impact on the young people who have taken part in the sessions?

Most definitely, here are just two examples:

One young person attended his first Youth Theatre session with his dad.  Joe (name changed) has special needs and finds it exceptionally difficult to mix with unfamiliar people or be in a strange environment.  His first session was spent observing from the side of the room. With some support from a member of staff he overcame his anxiety and the urge to go home.  On his next two visits he was encouraged to observe from within a small group, where he was given a line in a script to read aloud.  Three months later, the environment is no longer unfamiliar and the people no longer strangers, he has become an enthusiastic member of the group; he has attended a Youth Forum and has joined Shed Band weekly rehearsals.

John (name changed) aged 11 is fostered by a single foster mum Angela. He has had a traumatic history with his birth family, which has had an enormous impact on his life.  He has been excluded from school five times because the schools cannot cope with his behaviour.  As a result of this he is currently home educated and spends much of the day without coming into contact with other children.  John is extremely well behaved atHaringey Shed activity and mum credits this to the informal environment and that he loves the performing arts. John recently took a leading role in the Haringey Shed Musical Production of “27”. As well as providing positive activities for John, the after school and holiday activities provide a valuable break for mum Angela and gives John interaction with other children and positive role models.  John has recently been accepted into a new school and his Mum has said that Haringey Shed has been a huge contributor towards this move.

What are the biggest challenges your youth club has to overcome in getting young people with disabilities involved in different opportunities?

The biggest challenge is resources.  Fortunately we have a large team of volunteers who are able to offer 1:1 support for some of the young people, this includes other young people. We also have the challenge of keeping up with demand for our activities and on our programmes because there are so few opportunities for young people with disabilities to engage with their ‘mainstream’.  The challenge is to enable more youth programme providers to make their activities inclusive and accessible.  We are always happy to provide advice and support about this and work with other groups to help them improve opportunities for young people with disabilities.

How important is it for young people with disabilities to have opportunities like this?

We know that enabling young people with disabilities to take part in inclusive performing arts can break down the barriers and the discrimination that sometimes exists, as well as increasing confidence, communication, self-esteem and tackling the isolation that some young people with disabilities experience.

What does your club hope to achieve in the next year?

Over the next year we want to continue to offer opportunities for young people with disabilities to take part in quality performing arts projects; develop our volunteering offer for young people with disabilities and work with more partner organisations to grow the number of opportunities available to young people with disabilities.