GIVING young people with learning difficulties the chance to shape their own future is what makes the Uplands Educational Trust (UET) such an important charity.

When the organisation first opened its doors, it answered the prayers of many parents in Swindon who wanted a facility to cater for their children who need specialist support and guidance.

From helping them unlock their potential in education to providing opportunities for them to take control of their lives, UET provides a space for young people, aged 11 to 25, who have severe or profound multiple learning difficulties, autistic spectrum disorders and young people with additional needs such as sensory impairment or physical disability.

The dedicated team work round the clock to ensure learners are given the best start in life, including finding them suitable work placements where they can contribute towards the community they live in.

This need to create an inclusive environment is at the forefront of the charity’s work and now, thanks to a £5,000 grant from the Swindon Charity Ball, many will be able to take full advantage of the use of a minibus to transport them to their placements.

The money will be spent enabling the Horizons College learners to take part in curriculum activities and work related and vocational learning opportunities during term time.

During the college holidays, it will allow them to enhance their personal development and community engagement through social and leisure activities at weekend clubs.

“The college is changing hearts and minds,” explained CEO Jackie Smith.

“When you have a child with special needs, you, as a parent, need to see examples of young people succeeding and having aspirations like anyone else.

“With UET there is opportunity and there is hope. We try to make it all sustainable as well. These young people are going to be living in the community for a long time and historically what has happened is that after school they were left on their own. Provision has been poor and everyone knows that is why reforms have happened.

“It is difficult in schools and it is particularly difficult in colleges because funding is tight whether that is in mainstream or specialist education.

“But the college gives them the opportunity to keep skills alive that they have spent many years learning.”

Learners are able to benefit from the specialist support at not only the UET Learning Centre, based in Stratton Road, but the trust has also worked hard to expand its reach across the town through their charity shops as well as their specially adapted residential accommodation at Maryfield.

The aspiration to allow learners to shape their own future has seen many go on to work at Rein & Shine whereas others have also volunteered at Swindon Restore, a number of students, with the help of UET, have gone onto secure paid employment.

Head of college, Genti Mullalui, adds that not only do the staff appreciate such a generous donation by the Charity Ball committee but the learners themselves have grasped an understanding of how it will help them both in the short and long-term.

“The students realise the benefits of having this minibus for the college but also they know they will be the ones benefitting from having it here,” he said.

“We want to challenge our learners and when we do share news about the work we do and what our learners can achieve, that is when people realise what is at the heart of what we are doing in helping them help themselves get into work.

“Our students appreciate us giving them an opportunity to experience things they never thought they would ever been able to do.

“We try to find a whole variety of placements because we understand our learners have different aspirations and so we have tried to build these pathways, matching what our learners want to do.”