Young people are labelled for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes as ‘chavs’, as violent and to be feared, especially in groups, or else seen as reclusive gamers, in a virtual world untouched by reality. Some young people are labelled as ‘disabled’ or ‘special educational needs’. Whilst labels can be helpful, as it can bring support and understanding (for example, understanding a person’s communication when they are on the autistic spectrum), often labels limit and restrict what we think and imagine for people. This creates lesser expectations and holds people back from their true potential. We work with young disabled people and young people with experience of mental health difficulties as young people first, always seeking to step outside of and challenge barriers they experience.  

In the words of young leaders within Changing Our Lives:

‘It’s not good always thinking, ‘I am special needs’. I need to make the most of my life.’
‘I used to think about having difficulties or special needs, but it depressed me. I blank it out now and get on with my life.’
‘Just because people have not got a disability, does not mean they should judge people who are disabled.’
‘I don’t think about having a learning difficulty, I think I can go as far as I want. I can do anything I want to do.’
‘Doesn’t matter what disability you have you can live in your own home and get a job.’
‘I am determined. I don’t let anyone hold me back. I was bullied when I was younger and I didn’t have much confidence. But I learnt that when bullies say bad things, to do better and be even more determined. I thought, ‘this won’t hold me back’.

 Our work with young people takes different forms:

  • We work with individual young people and their families, enabling them through person centred planning and personal budgets, to have tailored support around them which unlocks an ordinary life.
  • Young people are developed in leadership positions to head campaigns like Got My Back and champion local change, for example writing their own white papers on issues that matter to them.
  • We run Leadership Masterclasses for young people.