Blenheim is working with an Oxfordshire-based farming charity to host working visits for people with learning disabilities and autism.
A team of co-farmers from FarmAbility will be making regular visits to the Blenheim Estate to assist in a variety of hands-on animal and land-based activities.
The initiative is part of a series of community-based charitable programmes supported by Blenheim as part of its goal to double its charitable contributions within a decade.
FarmAbility is a farm-based programme for co-farmers, who are people over the age of 16 with learning disabilities and often also with autistic spectrum disorder.
Recently a group from the charity helped build lambing pens, ahead of the main lambing season, under the close supervision of Head Shepherd Charles Gerring and FarmAbility staff.
“People with learning disabilities and autism face significant barriers to finding meaningful roles in society, although with the right support and an inclusive atmosphere, co-farmers can make a really valuable contribution to their local communities,” said Sarah Giles, Director, FarmAbility.
“We were thrilled when the Blenheim Estate agreed to host visits and the connection we’ve made with Charles and his team has been fantastic in offering co-farmers the chance to develop new skills, both work based, and social.
“Above all, the warm and friendly welcome co-farmers have received from everyone they’ve met at Blenheim has created the sense of community and belonging they deserve.
“We are excited to be planning regular visits to Blenheim and are looking forward to exploring the huge potential for purposeful roles the Estate can offer to people with learning disabilities,” she added.
FarmAbility believes people with disabilities thrive when they have a regular opportunity to take pride in doing real work, to act within in a supportive team, and to feel part of a productive and welcoming community.
This makes farms ideal spaces where people who have struggled in mainstream learning environments can approach new experiences, build and strengthen skills, and gain confidence in themselves and in their abilities.
Blenheim’s Head Shepherd, Charles Gerring, said: “I have three children that have degrees of physical and learning disability so I’m particularly aware of the opportunities that should be given to the co-farmers.
“Everyone should be able to have the opportunity to try things out and, from seeing what the co-farmers can do and the pleasure and enjoyment they get from it, I’m proud we can support them,” he added.
The FarmAbility scheme is part of Blenheim’s continued drive to bring business, charity and social enterprise closer by sharing the World Heritage Site and its Estate with local and regional groups.
In 2017 Blenheim CEO Dominic Hare set out 10 bold goals for the estate which include doubling charitable contribution to the community and tripling the economic impact on the local community.