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Friendship Circles is a project to help people with learning disabilities and/or autism to develop good support networks through friends, family and the people they get support from.
The idea came about through our local work in developing Person Centred Planning and our national work with other organisations supporting people to live more independently. We know that a lot of people with learning disabilities/autism are less likely to have strong family/friend networks around them to provide support in crisis. Because people are more independent now and less reliant on full time support (which is great!) they are also more likely to me lonely, less connected with friends/family and getting less supported by local services.
Many of the vulnerable people we see at Speakup did not socialise with each other unless they were volunteering at our offices or on special occassions when family or friends organise events.
Our project is funded by the Peoples Health Trust and we plan to work with a large group of local people, helping them to develop their Friendship Circle and working with them to produce good practice which we can share with other areas of the country.
Before we started the project we asked people to fill out a questionnaire about how lonely they felt and did they have any friends.
We also asked these vulnerable people to do a friendship circle, which showed who their friends were.
Many of our self-advocates said that they often felt lonely and would like to do more things especially on a weekend. The project has being going really well and are starting to form some real friendships, meeting up with people outside of these events.
Through this project, people are being supported by two peer experts to help develop their friendship circle, find solutions to problems and enable them to be more active and better support in a crisis.
Later on in the project we will share some of our resources and information which can help other areas set up Friendship Circles Projects.