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New Forest Mencap charity 'over the moon' to get £295,000 of National Lottery funding

“WE are over the moon” – that was the reaction from a New Forest charity which helps people with learning disabilities after being awarded nearly £300,000 by the National Lottery.

New Forest Mencap said the funding will pay over three years for an information and guidance service, plus a life skills programme which it said would “add significant value” to what it currently offers its users.

New Forest Mencap users
New Forest Mencap users

Mike Snell, chair of the organisation, said: “We are over the moon that the National Lottery has backed our proposal to improve services and opportunities for adults with learning disabilities.

“Covid has had a huge and negative impact for 18 months on the vulnerable adults, their carers and parents we are here to serve.

“This initiative will be a major part of the kickstart we are determined to make as we enter a ‘new normal’ for all our users.”

New Forest Mencap chairman Mike Snell CBE
New Forest Mencap chairman Mike Snell CBE

New Forest Mencap has been in existence since 1969 and is an affiliated network partner of the Royal Mencap Society, although an entirely standalone charity that receives no direct funding from this affiliation.

It has a base at the Nedderman Centre in New Milton and runs a shop in the town which provides work experience for people with disabilities.

The application was made to the Lottery before the coronavirus outbreak. Over the last 24 months New Forest Mencap has provided activities to 150 people with a learning disability and information and support to more than 50 parents.

New Forest Mencap member helping at its New Milton shop
New Forest Mencap member helping at its New Milton shop

When Covid-19 hit, the charity moved all of its activities online and between May 2020 and July 2021, provided over 320 online Zoom sessions – including drama, yoga, keeping fit, sharing music and chat. Those yielded over 2,600 attendances from more than 80 people.

These activities have provided people with learning disabilities the chance to maintain skills, learn new ones and have hobbies and interests. Often, once they leave education, there are fewer opportunities to continue learning.

A New Forest Mencap spokesman added: “We, the trustees and members, want to support the local learning disability community to reach their full potential and to live happy and fulfilled lives.”

The new grant is from the National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money for good causes and is the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Since June 2004, it has made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9bn to various projects.

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