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Student internship success at Heart of England Mencap

At University of Warwick, we encourage and support our students to play an active role in the local area. Our student volunteers have previously worked with children in schools, young adults, people with disabilities, community groups, at food shelters, hospitals and more.

Working with and supporting our local community is very important to us at Warwick, and we recognise that smaller businesses and charities have a huge economic and social impact. We would like to encourage charities and SMEs to get in touch with us to find out how we can collaborate to arrange and fund interns to support you, as we know that internships in these contexts can be harder to resource. We also have a graduate trainee programme where we can offer you the opportunity to host a graduate trainee, who would work in the capacity of a Project Officer. The graduate trainees will continue to be employed by (and 100% paid by) the University of Warwick.

Some of our students have been recognised for their work at Heart of England Mencap, being given invaluable insight into the organisation and to be able to implement real change for the local charity and people they support in the community.

Heart of England Mencap are a registered charity who support people with learning disabilities across Warwickshire. They deliver a wide range of support, enabling individuals to live independently within their own home or with support that is tailored to meet their needs.

Helena Wallis, Chief Executive of Heart of England Mencap said:

"The partnership built with Warwick University has been established for over 4 years and throughout this time we have successfully provided 5 paid internships, engaging with students that have contributed a wide range of skills and competencies in an organisation that is a significant local business with a charitable purpose. This has offered the opportunity for the candidates to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of some of the key issues we face as a society, and with Katie’s and Catriona’s support we were able to develop a clear plan around inclusion, equality and engagement.

"This work is pivotal in shaping how we embed best practice in the way we support people. We see our role as a local business is to provide the opportunities for students to put into practise the skills they are learning as part of their formal education, putting them in a better place to show future potential employers they have already contributed to a business environment.”

Congratulations to second year Politics and Sociology student, Katie Barber who was invited for an internship earlier in the year, which has led to her appointment to the Board of Trustees. Katie had spent seven weeks with Heart of England Mencap, as a Customer Engagement and Inclusion Coordinator, evaluating some of the biggest barriers the people they support face and planning ways for them to better engage and include their customers so that their voice is heard.

Katie said:

“During my studies I came across an internship at Heart of England Mencap, through a University programme. I applied as I have a strong passion for equality and enabling people in society, especially those who are underestimated. During my internship I made strong links with the people and community, so when approached to join the Board I had zero hesitation. I am glad to be able to represent the important area of Customer Engagement and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

“I am interested in the progressions of care and enabling people to have the most fulfilling life possible. After my studies, I am looking to go into social research, in order to inform better policy.

“I really believe in the organisation and wanted to support the community and knew that being a trustee would make my voice heard. It is an experience that you can take a great deal from in other ways too, such as gaining organisational understanding, developing a range of skills and meeting new people. For anybody thinking about becoming a trustee I would say ‘go for it!’. It truly is a special opportunity that you can take so much from.”

For people with learning disabilities, longer appointment times or a quiet waiting area can be the difference between a good or bad healthcare experience, but all too often they are not available, or even considered, because of a shocking lack of awareness.

Through her internship, Katie contacted a campaigns manager for Mencap nationally and has started to link Heart of England Mencap with the charity’s ‘Treat Me Well’ campaign, out to action change. The plan is to set up a Heart of England Mencap group, involving customers and staff, to support the campaign on a local level and engage with health trusts to improve awareness. Katie has also been working to establish a group of ‘communication champions’ from within the workforce, to promote and lead on improved person-centred communication with customers.

Politics and Economics Graduate, Catriona Heyworth, University of Warwick has also been recognised for her successful internship with HofE Mencap. Interested in a career in the public sector, in policy change, she spent seven weeks with the charity leading on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Catriona has worked on developing dedicated EDI champion roles within the organisation, creating a safe space where diversity can be discussed by staff and by customers to open communication, tackle discrimination and begin breaking down barriers.

Catriona said:

"EDI is everyone’s responsibility and embedding that approach is key. It can be very tokenistic but that has not been the case at Heart of England Mencap. I have enjoyed being given the freedom and responsibility to really tackle my role here and make a difference. It has been such a positive experience. It is a fantastic team, the customers are always at the forefront and that really shines through."

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