Increased Opportunities

A Smiley Bus awarded to a specialist training provider by the Steve Morgan Foundation has enabled students who are helped by the charity to access new and exciting experiences within the local community.

Activate CES  delivers vocational educational programmes for young adults with learning disabilities from across Knowsley and Wirral, with each student following a bespoke curriculum which is tailored to their individual needs.

It is now two years since the 61stSmiley Bus awarded by the Steve Morgan Foundation was delivered to Activate, and they have certainly been making the most of it to the benefit of their students.

“As a local charity it would have taken us years to raise the funds to purchase a minibus so we were very grateful to the Steve Morgan Foundation for funding our new, and first ever, Smiley Bus,” says Jacalyn Vose, Finance and Resources Manager at Activate.

“It has meant we have been able to give our students the opportunity to access new and exciting experiences outside the college grounds, enabling them to become more involved in their local community and working towards our vision of ‘an inclusive society for all’.

“Students from our satellite campus in Birkenhead are now able to travel to The Bracknell Centre on a weekly basis to access all of the campus facilities, including animal care, outdoor areas and horticulture.

“As many of our students have larger or bespoke wheelchairs that can be troublesome to fit into most taxi cabs, having our own Smiley Bus has meant that none of our students are restricted from accessing trips out as we can accommodate the wheelchairs by adapting the seating arrangements on the minibus.

“This has also freed up valuable time for tutors as they do not have to make extensive plans or exceptions for students with additional needs or compromise on lesson planning to make sure all of our students have the same experiences. 

“The Smiley Bus minibus has also allowed us to establish and maintain consistent routines with our learners who require this level of structure to prevent them from becoming agitated and anxious in new situations and using different vehicles.”

Having their own Smiley Bus helps in many different areas, including ensuring the young people can access a nearby hydrotherapy pool attached to a specialist school without the need to use taxi services.

That has allowed Activate to make use of two sessions in the pool each week which, via a rota system, means all of the students have the opportunity to access the pool throughout the academic year.

The Smiley Bus also allows Activate to plan in weekly sessions for students to visit their local shopping centres and coffee shops and become familiar with the community in which they live, developing their independent living and social skills which is one of the outcomes aimed for as part of their programme.

“Our long term plan is for learners to be fully independent with a set of life skills that will allow them to eventually gain a volunteering role or paid employment,” added Jacalyn.

“The use of the Smiley Bus has increased the amount of experiences and opportunities available to our students, allowing our learners to go places they would not always be able to access.

“This helps learners meet their social, emotional and health needs, and increase their life skills towards becoming more independent in the future.

“Travelling in the minibus also allows students to stay together within their peer groups and the bus provides the students with a safe environment where they are surrounded by familiar staff and students.

“We would like to thank the trustees for providing the Smiley Bus which has had a huge impact on the programme we are able to offer our students. 

“The minibus has meant that students have more regular access to therapies which are beneficial for their wellbeing and development and been able to  engage more with local communities which is an important part of developing their life skills and independence.”

The Smiley Bus follows previous support from the Foundation which awarded a £50,000 grant for team leader posts over a three-year period.

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