First look inside new studio flat teaching people with autism crucial new life skills
A new Independent Living Centre, complete with its own studio flat, is to be unveiled in Colchester to help teach people with learning difficulties the skills they need to live by themselves.
About 125 people a week will receive support from the new centre, where professional trainers from Bright Lives will use the kitchen, lounge and bedroom facilities to teach people with conditions such as autism how to cope with daily tasks when living alone.
Lessons will include cooking, making sure their homes are habitable and personal care.
Also making use of a training room on the site, classes will held be in personal relationships, coping online and handling finances.
Even though similar facilities exist in the United States and Canada, the site in Colchester will be the first of its kind in the UK when launched by the town's MP, Will Quince, on Thursday, February 13.
It has been brought about thanks to a £15,305 grant from Colchester Catalyst Charity and a £5,500 grant from the Community Foundation.
Michael Jones, chief executive of Bright Lives, said: "We expect this project to definitely change perceptions in society about the capabilities of people with autism and learning disabilities.
"This project will not fully remove the need for support but will allow a better understanding of the type of support required.
"It will also develop the confidence and self-esteem of the individuals to build new life skills for them. This will maximise their potential to better understand how to access the community and make the most of the benefits on offer.
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"We have piloted some of these courses over the last few years and have seen some great results.
"For example, we have witnessed these people realise new opportunities for themselves by working with other charities, such as the RNLI in Clacton and Help the Heroes, to raise funds for the organisations.
"These experiences have not only benefited the students but also the charities, by raising £3,000 between them over 18 months."
One of those who will benefit is Tyler St George, who has autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), pathological demand avoidance (PDA), borderline personality disorder (BPD) and other medical issues.
He is looking forward to using the new centre to become even more independent.
He says the team at Bright Lives "are like my family" who "saved me from continuing down a path of depression and despair".
Rodney Appleyard, development manager for Colchester Catalyst Charity, added: "We have invested consistently in Bright Lives since it started and we have been impressed with how it has developed to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities and autism.
"We were keen to get behind this new centre because it is the first of its kind in the country and will help so many more people with learning disabilities to take better care of themselves. Hopefully it will change perceptions in society too about what they can achieve in life.
"After learning important life skills from these intensive courses, Bright Lives says that many individuals will feel much more confident about living safely by themselves at home.
"Other people with autism or learning disabilities will still need a certain level of the support from carers, but this will be less than what was necessary before they started the courses.
"We are always keen to support projects that can make big difference's to people's health and well-being and this is definitely one of them."