Learning Disability Week 2019: Joanne Gatford

19 June 2019

Sport and volunteering are the key to confidence for one 28-year-old Worcester Warriors season ticket holder.

Joanne Gatford, who has a learning disability, is a resident at Sanctuary Supported Living’s Hazel Court in Worcester – a service that supports adults with a range of learning disabilities to live as independently as possible.

Joanne, who is passionate about rugby and attends all Warriors home games with her father and grandfather, moved to the service in 2015 and especially required support with her social skills.

To combat her confidence issues, Joanne volunteers in a charity shop and offers her gardening skills in the community. She also attends a weekly social group for people with learning disabilities, has joined the gym and started horse riding.

Joanne has made lots of new friends by speaking to new people and keeps busy by attending resident meetings, where she offers suggestions for activities.

She has gradually found the confidence to sign up for mixed-ability rugby training with Worcester Rugby Club and now travels independently every week by taxi to take part in her favourite sport.

Sara Brown, local service manager at Hazel Court, said: “Joanne has really come out of her shell and is now confident enough to speak for herself and ask people for help.

“With the improvement to her social life and fitness, Joanne seems happier, more confident, is maintaining a steady weight and her life skills are getting better all the time.”

Joanne added: “I think Hazel Court is really nice and more people should live here. I would like to stay here for a long time.”

Learning Disability Week is an annual campaign by Mencap to raise awareness of issues around learning disabilities. This year it runs from Monday 17 to Sunday 23 June and the theme is sport and inclusion.

For more information about our disability services, see our disability page or read more Life stories.

Joanne has really come out of her shell and is now confident enough to speak for herself and ask people for help

Local Service Manager, Sara Brown

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