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WATCH: Unite South West film highlights vital learning disability work

Reading time: 4 min

This week is Learning Disability Week (June 17 – 23) and across the country many support services and centres are highlighting the work that they do to help some of the vulnerable in society.

One centre is The Hive Avon in Kingswood, Bristol. The Hive is a social drop-in centre for adults, aged 18 or over, with a learning disability and / or autism.

Activities coordinator at The Hive is Unite member Rhys Mayes (pictured above). Rhys recently reached out to the Unite South West Disabilities Committee to let them know about the vital work that the centre does.

Despite nearly 7,000 service users visiting the drop-in centre in 2023 and running an extensive programme of activities, the Hive receives no council funding and is reliant on volunteers and donations.

The centre is volunteer-led and last year had 66 volunteers contribute 2845 hours of their time.

The disabilities committee decided it should help and got in touch with the Unite office in Tony Benn House and enlisted the help of Jake Roberts, Unite regional digital assistant, to create a short film that highlights the work of The Hive and why it is so important.

The film shows what a day is like at The Hive and how service users, many who feel very isolated, benefit from a chance to meet up, play pool, sing karaoke, take part in an art club or just relax with friends.

Unite member and Hive activities co-ordinator Rhys Mayes (R) and Unite South West equalities officer Lorraine Gibbs (L) pictured with service users

Rhys explains, “If you ask people why they come here, they will tell you it’s all about the friends. All the different activities we do are about promoting people’s well-being, making them more integrated into the wider community.”

The Hive also puts on a series of tailored courses and advice sessions to help users with learning difficulties improve their understanding of issues that will help them become more independent.

Rhys added, “We have developed these courses because they don’t exist in other places. So whether that’s sex and relationships courses, independent living and basic cooking skills courses, or the peer support group, we are advocating for people with learning disabilities’ rights, and supporting them to be more independent.

“For these impact projects, we had 319 service users take part.”

The Unite film aims to raise the profile of the Hive and encourage more service users to come along to the drop-in. The service users pay subs which the Hive uses to sustain its service.

The film also aims to promote the Hive through Unite’s branch network, primarily targeting local Unite branches, to encourage donations. The more donations they get, the cheaper they can keep the subs of members and the more work they can do to support them.

This week is another busy one at the Hive and service users, staff and volunteers are working hard to pull together a mini-exhibition throughout Learning Disability Week.

Rhys said, “The exhibition is being produced by our members and it is about our members. It shows the stories and history of learning disability issues and autism.

“We want to show that everyone here is an individual and has different interests and views and we would love to invite people to pop along and see the exhibition.”

To find out more about the Hive visit their website.

By Keith Hatch

Film by Jake Roberts

Photos by Mark Thomas