Visiting the Harrington Scheme, Highgate

At the weekend, I visited the Harrington Scheme in Highgate where those with learning disabilities and other challenges are trained in skills that will not only lead to employment – but also and being able to manage their lives themselves where possible.

Gardening is their main training program and what a wonderful place this is, both physically and emotionally. It is so beautiful – with well laid out training gardens, polythene tunnels for winter work and a fantastic walled garden. The buildings house a variety of functions including classrooms, kitchens for training in how to cook etc. There is a great need for a new building for more classrooms – but no capital funding available.

What struck me most, outside of the unbelievable dedication, commitment and untiring efforts of those involved like Leila Hodge and the Friends of Harringey and Joanna – one of the key staff members – was the amount of effort and time they all had to spend on fund-raising additional to trying to make this the best of training schemes available to move young people with difficulties into work.

One issue coming down the track is the transfer of their core funding – this part making up about 60% of their total funding – which will transfer from central government to the local authority in two years time. The fear is that Haringey will not passport that money through in its entirety to Harrington – because not all the young people come from Haringey itself but from several other boroughs.

So I will investigate further what safeguards the Government is going to put in place to ensure ongoing funding – as it applies not only to Harrington but to other groups who give benefits to people and are based in one local council area but who provide places for people coming from out of borough as well.

In the old days before central funding they used to cross bill from authority to authority – but that is burdensome and complicated. I would like to see if there is a means to protect the funding to remain for its intended use and to stop authorities re-directing it for their own purposes. Otherwise – groups like this will be in even more funding difficulties.

There were lots of other issues – mostly about funding – which I will pursue on their behalf. But mostly what I want people to take from this blog entry is the wonderful work that is going on to make the lives of those who have so many more challenges than most of us so fulfilled, useful and happy. And to get recognition for all those who are so utterly dedicated and have been over so many years – to carrying on this vital work.

Congrats to all involved with Harrington. I was well impressed!