More than 30,000 youngpeople with disabilities and special educational needs will be able to takepart in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, thanks to a grant of £300,000 from the Freemasons.
The Freemasons have becomea strategic partner of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE), funding a newnational programme to upskill its team and volunteers. The programme will alsohelp enrol more schools and clubs, to ensure all young people have access to DofE.
To make it possible, theUnited Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and the Masonic Charitable Foundation(MCF), the Freemasons’ charity, have teamed up to enable the charity to reachat least 30,000 young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)by 2024. The ambition is to increase the number of centres, such as schools and youth groups, offering DofE to young people with SEND and train hundreds of Leaders – trained individuals supporting groups of young people through their DofE journeys.
At least 15,000 youngpeople will achieve a DofE Award sponsored by the 200,000-strong UGLE, tosupport The Duke of Edinburgh's Award.
The programme has beendesigned to make DofE participation possible for students with diversedifficulties and disabilities. It will help the students to build crucialpersonal life skills, develop employability skills and become more independent,and aims to offer students the same experiences available to their peers in mainstream education.
The impact of achieving aDofE Award is remarkable and will be life-changing for young people withphysical or learning difficulties, who are often excluded from adventurous activitiesdue to a lack of accessible equipment, facilities, trained support staff andfunding.
The programme aims toincrease the opportunities for young people with special needs, as well as increasingthe number of specialist Leaders by providing bespoke training to adultssupervising young people with special needs. The aim is to have 240 more adultstrained to support young people with SEND by 2024.
The initiative also includesa plan to offer support to new delivery partners that work with young peoplewith SEND, to encourage them to offer the DofE.
His Royal Highness, TheDuke of Edinburgh, who founded the DofE in 1956, was himself a Freemason,having been introduced to Freemasonry in 1952 at the age of 31 by hisfather-in-law King George VI. Throughout his 99 years, he was associated withsome 992 charities, either as president, patron or honorary member.
Dr David Staples, chiefexecutive of the UGLE, said: “Prince Philip was well known for his charitywork, having been involved with numerous organisations. At UGLE, we looked fora project that would honour Prince Philip's memory. Helping young people withspecial educational needs and becoming a strategic partner of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award is therefore a great honour for us.
"Helping the DofE wasan easy decision as Freemasonry's core values are charity, integrity, respectand friendship,” he added.
Caroline Glen, Director ofFundraising, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, said: “We’re very grateful to theFreemasons for their generous grant, which will give many thousands of youngpeople with disabilities and special educational needs the chance to take partin the DofE and gain its life-changing benefits. This is a wonderful and very practical way to continue The Duke’s amazing legacy and to spread the benefits of the DofE further than ever before.”
The Freemasons work onaverage 18.5 million hours each year as volunteers in various areas, includingdriving vulnerable people to the hospital, preparing meals, taking care ofpeople at risk, organising care packages, and producing scrubs, personalprotective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitiser.
They also donated more than£1m last year to the Covid-19 support effort, with the funds being used to helpcommunities in various critical areas, including food banks, support for unpaidcarers, PPE, supplies for hospitals and hospices, support for women's refuges,and funds for NHS workers, ambulances and equipment.
As well as the late Duke ofEdinburgh, the Freemasons can also count other Royal Family members among theirnumber, including HRH The Duke of Kent, who is the longest-serving Grand Masterof the UGLE.