‘If you’re not with your friends, you’re not making memories’

Wednesday 31 July 2019

10 young leaders from our Belong partner, Whizz-Kidz, discussed loneliness and campaigns to make spaces more accessible for young disabled people at a residential funded through the Building Connections Fund Youth strand.

Whizz-Kidz Kidz Board

“[If you’re a wheelchair user] buildings won’t be accessible and you won’t meet your friends. If you’re not with your friends, you’re not making memories. You’re missing out on life experiences, through no fault of your own,” – Conor, a Whizz-Kidz Kidz Board member.

Young disabled people have a number of challenges to overcome, including loneliness and isolation. In fact, Whizz-Kidz found 88% of the young wheelchair users participating in a recent workshop felt lonely some of the time or often.

That’s why we’ve been proud to support Whizz-Kidz since 2017, firstly through funding for its personal development programme designed to empower young wheelchair users, and most recently with a £10,000 grant from our partnership with government on the Building Connections Fund Youth strand.

This grant supported a residential for members of its ‘Kidz Board’ to discuss loneliness as experienced by young wheelchair users. They considered ways the Kidz Board can tackle this issue with Whizz-Kidz, engage more young wheelchair users in talking about loneliness, and campaign to remove physical barriers that can exacerbate loneliness. This could include inaccessible transport and community venues.

The impact of loneliness

We know from our Belong partners that loneliness can affect anyone at any age. However, members of the Kidz Board used their residential to highlight why young wheelchair users are particularly impacted.

Reasons ranged from ‘feeling different’ to other young people to a lack of accessible community spaces. As Josh said: “It’s physically harder for us to get places and stay places and, therefore, it’s harder for us to socialise with the friends we do have.” 

Not only does this reduce the opportunities for young disabled people to connect, it also makes it harder to discuss things like loneliness with their peers. For many, this residential was the first time they had spoken about feeling lonely and Conor described a feeling of relief knowing he was “not the only one”.

Advocating for change

Young leaders from Whizz-Kidz are committed to advocating for change.

They used this passion last year to work with Barratt Developments to help them make their new developments more accessible for wheelchair users. 

And this work will continue in 2019 following their funded residential, with plans to campaign on ways to make community spaces more inclusive, and to offer increased peer support to other young wheelchair users who may lack confidence. The benefit of this youth social action is two-fold – helping to boost the confidence and skills of the young people involved in campaigning, and improving facilities for their peers.

Keep up to date with Whizz-Kidz.

Read about current support available from the Co-op Foundation, or subscribe to our blog to find out first when new funds are announced.

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