`We want them to move into society as our children do'
Fair Deal is a social enterprise and charity, set up in 1985, that supports people with learning disabilities.
"Until recent years, we've worked mainly with adults. But we decided to offer what we've got to people still at school and at the transition," says chief executive Ann Marie Docherty.
Personal development programmes help to structure the planning and activities for the young people.
"These are about helping people to develop skills in gardening and cooking," she says. "So we got funding to develop a training kitchen up in Castlemilk and we started working with the Hidden Gardens. Then, last year, we got Scottish government funding - through Youth Gateway - to work with 10 young people from five special educational needs schools."
The programme starts with the young people learning gardening skills, then goes on to looking at working safely in a kitchen, she says. "So they'll have 10 weeks of three-hour sessions in our training kitchen, working towards the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) award.
"Then they're back in the garden to harvest all the produce they've planted. Then back to the kitchen to cook it all. It's a nice continuous programme, following something through to the end. In between, there's encouraging people to barter and perhaps set up some kind of cooperative together - maybe working 10 gardens in an area."
The training kitchen is a development in a community resource centre, she says. "We've kitted it out to be fully accessible, with new ovens, hobs, fridges, everything that's needed. It's a great opportunity for these young folk and a nice space for them to work in. It's about learning new skills again and getting them out into the community."
The third component of the programme is working with the youngsters to develop their personal plans, she says. "Fair Deal will take the responsibility for talking with them about their aspirations, about possible work and volunteering and what support they would need to be able to do that.
"The personalisation agenda in Glasgow means people, when they leave school, will be assessed and get their own budgets. Working with a variety of partners, we should be able to provide them with that menu of opportunities Frances was talking about. I think anything's possible, with the right input. It's about looking for potential instead of pigeonholing people."
Conor is a good example, she says. "He wants to be a chef. So why shouldn't he get a chance? We're talking to people to see if they'll let him try it, if we put the support in for him. That's the important part. The support needs to be there to help these young people achieve their potential."
Recession means tough times for everyone, she says. "But I do feel we are making progress, working with different partners like the schools, and getting young people at the transition. We want them to move into society as our children would. We don't want to limit their opportunities or their aspirations because somebody puts up a barrier.
"You have to keep knocking on doors and saying, `Come on. Give these young people a chance'."
Fair Deal www.fair-deal.orgindex.html
Photo: Conor Gavin has left school now but still comes to the Hidden Gardens in Pollokshields to work one day a week. Photo credit: David Gordon