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Youth Hub: A Place To Call Their Own

AutismAble is a service for neurodivergent people, specialising in autism, learning disabilities and complex disabilities with multiple needs. They work with their members to support them to achieve their ambitions. Whether someone requires 1:1 support, navigates life independently, or falls somewhere in between, their mission remains the same – to enable, empower and enrich.

There’s a growing demand for support for young people with autism in South Shields, especially having access to specialist services to help young people thrive, develop life skills and to learn the skills they need to secure fulfilling work opportunities.

AustimAble needed a new Youth Hub to help them support more young people. The starting point was purchasing an old run-down building that they could easily afford. But securing funding for its renovation was a huge challenge, and they initially thought change would be slow and incremental. However, thanks to a timely grant, they were able to secure £598,870.00 for capital refurbishment and revenue growth, which includes the creation of two new youth roles as well as expanding the capacity of existing staff, which meant they could do full steam ahead in transforming their youth space at pace. The newly transformed Youth Hub will open its doors to young people later this month.

The space will give young people access to some fantastic new activities including filmmaking, photography, and music sessions. Music is a big part of AutismAble, it’s a great route to encourage the participation of marginalised and hard-to-reach youth to grow collaboration between neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals; and to champion the values of acceptance and inclusivity in the music domain. Music brings many things, other than pure enjoyment, it helps build their confidence through performing and also use their taking part in these activities as a gateway to engage with other services AutismAble offers.

Participation is a thread through everything AustismAble does. Young people have been at the heart of the new Youth Hub’s development. Alongside co-creating the hub’s look, feel and activities and feeding into the design plans, one of the things young people have loved is developing the Youth Hub’s branding. They have worked with local designer, Geoff Foots, to create a new logo that will take pride of place in the new space, choosing the brand’s look and feel, colours and typeface. It’s a place to call their own.

The new Youth Hub opens its doors on 17th May 2024 and AustimAble anticipates a 200% growth in the number of young people accessing their services by 2026. The impact will be transformational.

In anticipation of its launch, AutismAble is thrilled to announce free weekly taster sessions at its new Youth Hub, beginning Monday 22nd April. Designed for young people aged 14-25 with SEND, these engaging sessions will offer a diverse range of activities including arts, crafts, media, and music. Participants will have the opportunity to explore their interests, meet the AutismAble team, and share their ideas for the Youth Hub’s future.

Shaun Saunders – AutismAble Member: “AutismAble has helped me so much to socialise with other people. I have also become a more confident person since starting AutismAble. I think sessions such as Business and Employability have helped me gain more knowledge on skills and roles for different jobs. I think the new Youth Hub is really good and I will be helping set up a Geek Café which will give me the experience to start something of my own in the future. It was really good to have our own input into developing the Youth Hub as it gave us a voice!”

Sarah Windle – Youth and Outreach Provision Team Leader: “The whole team at AutismAble were absolutely thrilled to hear that we were awarded funding to develop our youth space. All of the staff have such a strong passion for supporting neurodivergent young people and this funding not only gives us the opportunity to work with and meet more amazing young people, it is also really validating to know that so many other people really believe in what we do and what we offer. We are so excited to share this beautiful space with our community and we can’t wait to see how the young people will shape it into a place they can call their own”.

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