Internships with impact

Heart of England Mencap has been privileged to welcome two interns to its team this summer.

We hope we have given them an invaluable insight into the workings of an organisation like ours – and we know we have gained so much in return.

Our interns have been brilliant – implementing real change for our charity and the people we support. Forget pushing around paper or ticking any boxes, these have been internships with impact!

Katie Barber and Catriona Heyworth were both recruited through the internship programme at the University of Warwick, where they are students.

Here we detail their experience – and what it has meant for them and for us too…

 

Katie, who has just finished her first year studying politics and sociology, was attracted to Heart of England Mencap because of the barriers she herself has faced with dyslexia and processing difficulties.

She has spent 7 weeks with us, as Customer Engagement & Inclusion Coordinator, evaluating some of the biggest barriers the people we support face and planning ways for us to better engage and include our customers so that their voice is heard.

Katie and Catriona both visited all our services – from day opportunities through to supported living, respite and complex needs care.

For Katie, one issue faced by our customers kept on being talked about - overcoming healthcare barriers. 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 made contact with 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 here to improve awareness.

Katie has also been working to establish a group of ‘communication champions’ from within our workforce – there to promote and lead on improved person-centred communication with our customers.

Working with Catriona, Katie is also behind a plan for a ‘Citizens’ Council’ engaging a group of customers to work directly with our Trustees on shaping our direction and agenda.

“This is my first experience in a working environment like this and Heart of England Mencap has set the bar really high,” Katie says.

“Unlike lots of internships where you just get coffee and photocopy, not only do they get me coffee, but they have given me lots of working and creative freedom to investigate the organisation and collaborate with staff to enhance the services and customer inclusion. I already want to come back!”

 

Catriona has just graduated from her studies in politics and economics. Interested in a career in the public sector, in policy change, she spent 7 weeks with us leading on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Catriona spent time visiting all services, like Katie, with both interns also helping at our Inclusive Cycling Open Day and filming a video for us to support our recruitment drive, interviewing staff and customers on camera.

But Catriona’s main focus has been Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, or EDI, where she has led on evaluating our approach and making recommendations for a new structure which we can take forward and implement to spark change and make an impact.

Catriona has worked on developing dedicated EDI champion roles within our 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. Our champions will be there to drive new initiatives too, whether that’s looking at how we celebrate Black History Month or Pride Week or celebrate diversity through cultural dinners and other events.

 “EDI is everyone’s responsibility and embedding that approach is key,” Catriona says.

“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.”

 

We owe a huge thank you to Katie & Catriona. In just 7 weeks, they have achieved so much and benefitted our charity so widely. They leave us having started to implement real change that will have a direct and lasting impact on the customers they have enjoyed meeting and getting to know. Thank you both!