Brentwood: Project Gets Cash To Stay Open

A support project in Essex for people with learning disabilities which was due to close its doors in January has had its future secured with a grant of £296,000 from the Big Lottery Fund (BIG).

BATIAS Independent Advocacy Service has been running The Can Do Project across Brentwood, Basildon, Castle Point, Rochford, Wickford, Southend and Thurrock for the past five years. More than 80 people with learning disabilities currently benefit from the project, which can now continue for another three years thanks to the funding.

The project is one of four in the East of England region sharing grants totalling £1,176,962 from BIG's Reaching Communities programme.

The Can Do Project gives people with learning disabilities, including those who have severe physical impairments and mental health issues, the opportunity to participate in a range of socially inclusive activities to help them lead a life that is productive, healthier, active and driven by personal choices.

Activities include friendship and dating, opportunities to volunteer and improve health, and basic life and employment skills.

Carole Cecil, Chief Executive of BATIAS, said: "I felt that I had personally won the Lottery when I opened the envelope and saw that BATIAS had been successful with its application in securing three years of funding. With over 80 people with learning disabilities benefiting from the support of the current project, staff and service users were feeling very despondent at the thought of the project closing in January.

"We are thrilled that we can now build upon the work that has taken place during the last five years and continue to develop the skills and opportunities for effective and meaningful social inclusion. Every person has a right to a life that reflects personal choice and BATIAS is totally committed to empower people with learning disabilities towards achieving this goal."