We established the Forum for Empowering Communities, which was made up of third sector voluntary and community organisations, as one of six community planning boards within the Partnership structure. The Forum provides a way to raise within the community planning partnership issues which are important to community and 3rd sector organisations. A particular strength of the Forum is that it provides a way of engaging with a number of groups, who may otherwise be marginalised, through the third sector services they access.
An example of this was that Renfrewshire Access Panel, which advocates for disabled people, identified an issue through engagement with Renfrewshire’s Tackling Poverty Commission that was then taken on by the Forum. This issue was a perception that disabled children approaching school leaving age found it more difficult to access work experience placements than non-disabled children. The Forum agreed to take up this issue and, with funding from Renfrewshire Council’s Tackling Poverty Fund, established a project to provide learning placements within third sector organisations.
The project was very successful, with good take up, and both children and teachers reporting positive experiences. A key area of success was that 1-1 meetings were made possible for children and parents to identify work that would interest the children and to explore any factors regarding their disability that required to be taken into account. Discussions then took place with the host organisation to brief them on the specific needs of the individual young person. Any necessary training regarding disability and reasonable adjustments to the physical workspace was provided. This meant that the organisations could take time to understand the issues and receive the necessary support and were able to be confident in welcoming the young person into the workplace.
As a result, Renfrewshire Access Panel now has a model resulting in good quality learning placements for children with learning disabilities and has worked successfully with a number of schools and third sector organisations in Renfrewshire.