Lynne Featherstone MP visits award winning youth charities on Big Lottery Fund tour

Lynne Featherstone, Alison Rowe and staff and volunteers at ExposureTo see how Lottery funding has helped transform the lives of local young people with mental health issues and learning difficulties, Lynne Featherstone MP, visited charities Exposure and Action for Kids, as part of a Big Lottery Fund tour on Friday.

At Muswell Hill based Exposure Magazine, the Hornsey and Wood Green MP and Big Lottery Fund Head of London Region Alison Rowe were shown three powerful films produced by young people, focusing on mental health. The films are part of Exposure’s wider Lottery-funded ‘Mind’ initiative, enabling young people to use the media to explore and recount their mental health journeys, come to terms with their experiences as well as raise awareness for peers and the wider community.

At Action for Kids, a Hornsey-based charity for young people with learning difficulties, the Liberal Democrat MP was shown the Big Lottery-funded computer equipment, tailor-made for each student’s unique needs, to help the students participate in the charity’s decision-making and learn new skills for independent living.

Lynne Featherstone MP comments:

“These two unique charities do amazing work with young people in Hornsey and Wood Green, and it’s so wonderful to see their fantastic work continued and expanded, thanks to grants from the Big Lottery Fund.”

“It was great to meet some of the young people who have found the courage to speak about their mental health issues through Exposure’s ‘Mind’ initiative. This Lottery-funded project has really done wonders for the young people who have shared their experiences, but it has also helped raise awareness of mental health problems amongst youth more widely, and that’s just fantastic.

“Thanks to the generous Lottery grant, young people at Action for Kids have got new ways of expressing themselves, with the help of tailor-made computers. This has done wonders for their independence and their chance to have a say in how Action for Kids is run – really inspiring!

Amazing work done by Action for Kids

Fantastic visit to Action for Kids. I have been before a couple of times – and it never ceases to make me well up when I see the commitment and enthusiasm from those who work there and the benefits that flow from a day well occupied. Finding day placements, useful and rewarding ones, for those with learning disabilities is not easy. In Haringey we have the Harrington Scheme, the FAITH Centre and Action for Kids – and that’s about it.

But what a difference it makes. If it wasn’t for this charity their attendees would be simply stuck at home. Instead they are stimulated in a great environment, learning skills and doing useful work.

The facilities have expanded since I was last there – they now have a kitchen. It doubles as a social club – and they have boys night, girls night and mixed night – as well as a family room. Such a warm atmosphere and lovely people. Today they had invited me for lunch – and they cooked a splendid Mexican casserole – very spicy!

The constant quest is for money, though, so that they can continue to offer this service. It is mainly through donations that they operate and given that sometimes the care needs to be one to one – I am amazed that they manage the sort of projects and outings that they do.

I had the loveliest time – and that feeling stayed wit me all day.

Action for Kids visit

Fantastic to have this exemplar charity – which recently celebrated its fifteenth birthday – operating here in Hornsey & Wood Green.

It now covers about seventeen boroughs and young people with a variety of challenges come there to work. They feel loved and supported and develop skills that can really help them. In that encouraging atmosphere they have even seen miracles – as when someone who hadn’t spoken for years started to speak again. They also supply specialist equipment, chairs and so on to those who need it.

Now the real problem for Action for Kids is that they are totally a charity. And do you know – the councils that send kids there don’t pay a penny. They want to find a way of charging and I don’t blame them. They work totally off of charitable donations – but with some basic funding could expand their operation – which is clearly in demand and excellent.

And really scandalously – the Government will pay businesses £80 per day to take young people like this – and businesses refer them on so that they spend the day free at Action for Kids – but the businesses keep the dosh. Disgusting!

Celebrating Action for Kids

Lynne Featherstone MP and LornaOff to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary for Action for Kids. This is a national charity based in Hornsey which does remarkable work with disabled children and young people.

At Action For Kids they help disabled children, young people, their parents and carers in three main ways. They provide mobility aids, work related learning and family support services. In fact they try never to say no and will help in any way we can to enable disabled children and young people lead full and independent lives.

And you can tell that they have a crack team who are all totally committed to what they are doing – and who do it to the highest of standards.

I met Lorna (see photo) – who has a mobility unit which is engineered to do just about anything and everything. Lorna has now completed a teaching degree in dance and is working. We should be very proud to have such a fine organisation in on our doorstep.

Hornsey Carnival

Off to Hornsey Carnival! Arrive at base of Ally Pally to meet Monica who is accompanying me for the duration. I find the organiser Paul and Mr Rathbone – who is Mr Hornsey Carnival.

I am to judge the best business float – so I wander up the road looking for the five ‘floats’ named on my judging sheet. One of the floats is for Action for Kids – well – a painted van would be more accurate. But they were all dolled up as hippies – peace and love man – which appealed as that was my youth. And I can’t find the other three competitors at all. So – I declared the winner Action for Kids and the runner up – Greig Academy.

Retracing my steps to the beginning of where everyone was lining up, I was introduced to Karl Heinz and his troupe of girls from Koblenz. The Hornsey Carnival queens go over there each year and they visit back from time to time. In Koblenz the carnival is big and the streets are lined five deep with onlookers.

I am to sit on the back of an open-topped Mercedes with the Deputy Carnival Queen – Verity. Verity was Queen last year and knows the ropes. She is my mentor for the duration and knows all there is to know about carnivals, waving and smiling. She was a lovely girl, actually, and I learned a lot from her about what the girls do – from selling brochures for the carnival door to door to attending all sorts of functions as well as going to other local carnivals to take part. They raise quite a bit of money for local charities – and lots of people give their time free from the woman on the committee who makes the girl’s dresses (both day and evening) to the woman who had moved away from Hornsey but still helped run the carnival as she had for years.

The parade moved slowly off and through the streets of Hornsey. Five deep the crowds were not – but there were quite a lot of people out to waive and watch us pass. The atmosphere was lovely and I have to say I really enjoyed it. Waiving at strangers is clearly an art – and it is quite a psychological study as to how to make even the grumpiest, “I am not going to smile or waive at any cost” teenager, respond. If you catch someone’s eye – and you waive and smile directly at them – it is almost impossible for them not to respond.

And so the carnival parade wended its way for an hour and a half through the streets. At the journey’s end I went on my way – as the carnival would go on late into the night with dancing and celebrations.

I went home and watched what was left of Live-8. My two daughters had texted and been lucky enough to get tickets. At 10am this morning they had departed for Hyde Park and at various times throughout the day they had called me to let me a) know they were alive and b) listen to the music live through the mobile.

I thought the whole thing was fantastic! Of course – I remember the first one 20 years ago. And I don’t subscribe to the cynics who say that this will do nothing. Of course this won’t solve poverty in Africa – but it is a start. We need to make sure that the aid that is given is given to agencies who will help enable the local African people to build small businesses and sustainable lifestyles so that they can survive and build an industry of their own to sustain the economy.

Sir Bob and Live-8 have delivered the increased debt write-off and the increased aid – but more than that – they brought us all together to say we do care and we will act.