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Challengers Chat: May 2018

Challengers Chat May 2018 image

The writer of this month’s Challengers Chat is one of our Project Managers, David Coughlin. He talks about our Young Adult Schemes, including updates on some changes we’ve been trialing this Summer Term.

In the Operations Team, we have been grappling for some months and years now: what do our young adults want? When asking this question of young adults more generally, the answer, though often clichéd and probably unrepresentative of young adults’ true wishes, comes easily to older observers: young adults want to go out with their friends, drink too much, romance each other and make the mistakes that teach them the lessons that will (hopefully safely) transition them into adulthood.

At Challengers we work with disabled young adults, and our total inclusivity policy means we must cater for a broad range of abilities and wishes. We relish the challenge of providing a fun, flexible and safe programme that is appropriate for the young adults who use our service. We believe that the young adults who attend Challengers should be allowed to enjoy the same pastimes and make the same mistakes as their non-disabled peers. However, this means that we must take extra care in treading the fine line of offering independence and agency in a safe environment.

Trips to clubs, pubs and other “adult-orientated” spaces are certainly nothing new for Challengers, but trying to systematically include these events as part of an aim to update the service we provide is. Along with the practical considerations that we need to take to make events such as these a reality (Where do we meet if we run until late in the evening,? Will our committed and brilliant staff be happy to give up their Saturday evenings?), there are some more complicated ethical questions to consider.

The example that most often prompts hours of discussion with our young adult staff is what to do about alcohol at Challengers. If we take young adults to the pub, do we allow them to buy drinks? How many? What if their parents don’t approve? In making these decisions we need to consider the mental capacity of the young adults, potential deprivation of liberties and the adults’ right to not always follow their parents’ directives. If at Challengers we challenge the barriers to play, should we not also challenge the barriers to sometimes defying parents’ wishes?

Throughout this process we have tried to keep in sight the importance of delivering a service that is in real demand, rather than dictating to the young adults and their families what kind of service they should be seeking. As well as informal discussions with parents, young adults and staff whilst on scheme, we decided to gather the opinions of parents and young adults in surveys. This consultation gave us a strong picture of what we should be striving for. Although parents and young adults alike expressed an interest in a revitalised activity programme, the inclusivity and accessibility of daytime sessions on a Saturday were repeatedly cited as the things that made Challengers stand out for the young adults and their families.

Therefore, in the interest of respecting these voices, and continuing to provide the service that families know and love, during the Summer Term, we are trialing one “late” session per month, alongside a regular itinerary of daytime sessions. With our late sessions we are also trying to offer a set of activities that act more as extension of the current young adult experience rather than something that feels completely unfamiliar – trips to the theatre and dinners out rather than nights out in a bar and doners at 5 in the morning.

Last month, two of our young adult groups, from Guildford and Bookham, spent the night at the Boileroom in Guildford. With a certain level of apprehension we chose to go all out, running the session until 11pm for the young adults to make the most of the country’s finest Oasis tribute act. A quick look at the Boileroom Instagram on Monday morning led me to a video of a very sweaty, raucous group of men and women singing along to a euphoric rendition of Champagne Supernova. Reports from leaders, parents and the brilliant staff at the Boileroom confirmed what this video suggested; the young adults had had a long and noisy night of age-appropriate fun.

P.S. After the success of the night at the Boileroom we are hoping to continue with our programme of “adult-orientated” sessions. On 26th May, all four Challengers young adult groups will be heading to The Basement, a small club at the University of Surrey, for our own private club night (a few schemes still have space if any young adults or parents are reading). From there we will carry on listening to the opinions of young adults and parents and seek to continue providing what they want from Challengers.

Visit our Young Adults section for more information about our Young Adult Schemes in Basingstoke, Bookham, Farnham and Guildford.