Better Things, based in Clifton in Salford is a not-for-profit organisation working with people with learning disabilities to promote inclusion, health and well-being.
The organisation started in 1974, when a group of parents with children with learning disabilities came together to support one another as services that were available to them were limited.
Since then, Better Things has gone from strength to strength, to date working with more than 300 families, giving anyone living in Greater Manchester a free membership to their services. Excellent services are provided for free to individuals, including drop in sessions, men’s health groups, support and someone to talk to when times can get hard.
Often for people with learning disabilities, they can be supported as a child but after reaching 16 and leaving school, services become harder to find, often creating isolation and loneliness. Better Things aims to prevent this by offering people “better things”.
As well as free services, sociable events such as nights at the local social club, ‘Football for All’, yoga and a Skills Academy, offering arts, music and media opportunities and skills are available to members of Better Things for a small fee. These events help people to socialise, make friends and feel included. One of the projects is called the ‘Taking Part Project’ which focuses on physical activities, leisure, learning and socialising activities including the organisation’s yoga project.
The organisation works with adults who have learning disabilities, representing their rights and interests whilst promoting inclusion, health and well-being. Better Things’ projects often have unexpected outcomes, for one person, Billy, it wasn’t so much the activities that motivated him but the interaction with other people.
When the day centre that Billy attended relocated and expanded in size, Billy didn’t want to go any more. A big down side of that was that Billy lost touch with friends and contacts that he had had for many years. Billy’s engagement with the ‘Taking Part Project’ and with support from staff and members at Better Things has seen a huge change in Billy’s confidence and self-esteem.
He got involved in the project as a way to reconnect with former friends who were taking part. He has become a valued volunteer welcoming new members and completing registration and participation information with them. Billy said “I enjoy volunteering and I always love it when we have a new member of the group, introducing them to everybody and just making them feel welcome.”
Billy’s confidence is all the more impressive considering some of the issues he has had to overcome. The victim of disability hate crime and verbal abuse over the years and the subsequent lack of confidence that followed have been a huge challenge for him.
Billy has taken that challenge head on and now regularly contributes to workshops and presentations about his experiences. He has helped raise awareness of disability hate crime by taking about his experiences in short films and to Greater Manchester Police students and front line officers.