Julie achieves highest level of the John Muir Award

Julie McElroy, a determined young adventurer from Glasgow who has overcome severe disabilities to achieve the highest level of the John Muir Award received recognition for her achievements from presenter and broadcaster Dougie Vipond on 18 November.

Julie was born with cerebral palsy which has resulted in mobility problems, walking difficulties and speech impairment along with manual dexterity problems. She is also profoundly deaf and wears two hearing aids, but she has refused to let these disabilities stop her completing her John Muir Conserver Award.

In the course of meeting the four challenges of her Award Julie has trekked in the Himalayas, joined the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team on manoeuvre, climbed Helvellyn, England’s third highest mountain, paddled the length of Loch Shiel and led other disabled people on a three-day expedition on Arran.

Julie said: “I wanted to experience a totally new existence and challenges that are different from the ones I experience in everyday life. Being in the wild allows me to establish myself more as a person.

“I love the outdoors because it allows you to rebalance yourself as a person. I love coming up with new ideas and I wanted to lead by example.

“The buzz of the outdoors began for me when I was a child and I now want to unleash opportunities where other disabled people can climb a mountain, get involved in taking responsibility for the natural environment and most importantly enjoy the fun, adventure and exploration of the wild.”

Broadcaster and presenter Dougie Vipond presented Julie with her certificate at the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park Headquarters in Balloch.

Dougie said: “Adventure is important, it challenges and stimulates us, and it can lead us to wonderful wild places we perhaps wouldn’t normally visit. Julie’s achievements are a reminder to us all that experiencing adventure and challenge in Scotland, and further afield, should be open to all regardless of age, ability or background.

“Congratulations to Julie for demonstrating her drive and determination in completing her John Muir Conserver Award. Wild places and the spirit of adventure can only benefit from being championed by her.”

The John Muir Conserver Award is the highest level of the John Muir Award, which is an environmental award scheme focused on wild places. The Award encourages awareness and responsibility for the natural environment, in a spirit of fun, adventure and exploration. It is the educational initiative of the John Muir Award.

John Hutchison, chairman of the John Muir Trust said: “By getting involved in the John Muir Award, Julie McElroy has set an example to us all. Not only has she refused to see her disability as a barrier to experiencing and caring for wild places, but she has actively encouraged others to do the same.

“Congratulations to Julie on her huge achievement, and I’m pleased that Julie’s John Muir Conserver Award helps recognise and celebrate her own spirit of adventure and challenge.”

ENDS

SUSE (Scottish Union of Supported Employment) – Business Diversity Awards

SUSE (Scottish Union of Supported Employment) – Business Diversity Awards

I must commend the SUSE (Scottish Union of Supported Employment) for hosting the Business Diversity Awards at BBC Scotland on Thursday 17 November 2011.

Scottish Union of Supported Employment promotes awareness of diversity and equality in the workplace. It also engages and works alongside Scottish businesses to unleash the talents of the disabled people in the public population.

Empowering employers and service providers requires understanding, team work and communication from all sectors across Scotland to work together to address the prejudices faced by disabled people and their preconceived capabilities of securing their career in the job markets. It a rising challenge for everyone however it will deliver a strong collective sense in the long term.

As a guest speaker, I spoke about the motivation to succeed and I hoped after the event the winners will leave feeling inspired and motivated more than ever to encourage everyone of non disabled and disabled people to combine their qualities to make your organisation succeed.

The Scottish Business Diversity Awards recognizes Businesses, Organisations and Individuals who excel in promoting the employment of people with disabilities and health issues and people from diverse backgrounds.

The Scottish Union of Supported Employment Business Diversity Awards aim to:

  • Raise the profile of and promote positively the employment of people with disabilities and long term health conditions, and people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Highlight employers who implement inclusive recruitment practice.
  • Promote and highlight the benefits of inclusive recruitment practice.
  • Showcase positive case studies that address the negative attitudes and prejudices that hinder inclusive recruitment practice.
  • Inspire people with disabilities and health issues and people from diverse backgrounds to move into employment.

There were five awards – Employer of the year, Employee of the year, Work Initiative of the Year, Employment Service Provider of the year and a Diversity Award. BBC Scotland was the Work Initiative of the Year’s sponsor this year. Nick, BBC HR Manager and myself presented this category.

The shorlisted winners are:
Lochore Meadows
Specialisterne Scotland
Work4U

Fife Council’s Outdoor Education Centre at Lochore Meadows, work in partnership with Fife Employability Team (FET) and West Fife Community Support Service (WFCSS) to offer volunteering opportunities for people with learning disabilities.

Volunteers help to design and build new mountain bike trails and maintain existing trails within the country park. This gives people a wide variety of work experiences. Volunteers gain credits for hours worked and these can be exchanged for hiring bicycles. Staff from WFCSS have now accomplished the basic cycle leader qualification.  This enables them to lead small cycling groups within the country park which benefits other service users. Staff, volunteers and those supported by WFCSS now enjoy free bike hire that lets them enjoy the wildlife and fantastic scenery at the park, with the added benefits of promoting the employability agenda and a health lifestyle.

Specialisterne Scotland  is a social enterprise franchised from Denmark, offering employment opportunities for people on the autistic spectrum. Work is specialised in web development and software testing.  The unique business plan was developed with particular recognition of the known skills and abilities of people on the spectrum. By focussing on the particular skills of people on the spectrum, Specialisterne are championing inclusive recruitment practices and very effective job matching arrangements.

So far 24 people have undergone training, 12 have completed training and 8 of those trainees are now paid employees.  These employees are offered support and development through training, one to one and performance meetings. The trainees and employees have highly sought after skills that enables the business to succeed in the IT sector.

Work4U, Fife
Fife Employability Team, Fife Council Social Work Service, delivers the Work4U project in 18 secondary schools throughout Fife.  The project targets young people with additional learning support needs, and those most likely to have no employment, training  or further education opportunities when they leave school.

Work4U helps these 4th year students to consider the skills and qualities that they have, the type of work this might be suited to, and provides work placements with local employers. Over the last year W4U has engaged with 244 young people; 172 completed a one week work placement, 84 have stayed on at school, 54 have gone into further education, 12 have taken up further training and apprenticeship opportunities and 6 are now in paid employment.

This early intervention initiative has shown the real benefits of cross service partnerships between Education and Social Work, and the positive outcomes that can be achieved for the benefit of young people in the world of work.

And in reverse order:

Bronze award goes to Lochore Meadows
Silver award goes to Specialisterne Scotland
Gold award winner is Work4U

For more information on SUSE (Scottish Union of Supported Employment), http://www.susescotland.co.uk/