User-led charity wins prime minister’s award


newslatestA user-led organisation is the latest charity to win the prime minister’s Big Society Award, after being praised for its contribution to the community.

Oxford-based My Life My Choice (MLMC) is run by and for people with learning difficulties, and provides independent support, helps people to make a positive contribution to society, and makes sure their views are taken seriously by professionals and the public.

Announcing the award, 10 Downing Street said MLMC had “helped raise levels of self-esteem, confidence and improved the quality of life for people with learning disabilities by providing volunteering, training, employment and social opportunities”.

People with learning difficulties run projects including a nightclub, a radio show, advice groups, and a transport buddy scheme that helps people travel independently.

Since January 2011, 55 people have used the buddy scheme, 130 people have been empowered to challenge hate crime, and more than 200 people a month have attended the StingRay nightclub project in Oxford, which is hosted by DJs with learning difficulties.

Meanwhile, StingRadio, hosted by DJs with learning difficulties, has broadcast fortnightly shows since September 2011.

David Cameron, the prime minister and MP for nearby Witney, said the award “recognises the huge difference everyone involved in the charity is making”.

He said: “I’ve seen at first hand the great work this organisation does. From support using public transport to club nights, My Life My Choice empowers people with learning difficulties to design and run the services they want to see.”

His Big Society Awards, which were launched three years ago, aim “to pay tribute to those making a valuable contribution to their community”, with just 48 of them handed out every year.

Paul, a co-chair of MLMC, helped to set up the StingRay nightclub project.

He said: “People with learning disabilities often get isolated because there is not enough places for us to socialise.

“Our night club is a rare opportunity for people with learning disabilities to get out and make relationships.

“If I was not a part of MLMC I would be bored at home, maybe getting myself into trouble.”

Paul is also involved in the StingRadio project.

He said: “StingRadio gives our voice to the people. When we first went live on air we did not realise we were live; when we got told it made me feel over the moon.

“It’s an amazing job being a DJ; I like it because it is not an opportunity that people with learning disabilities usually get.”

He added: “I now am a trustee of the charity. I think this is important as we get to be the bosses and make all the big decisions for our charity.”

24 October 2013