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Southwark Speak Out Day all about accessibility for young people hailed as outstanding networking event’

19 February 2024

We’ve launched a free monthly event, focusing on improving accessibility at Southwark clubs for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

We hosted the first SEND Speak Out Day at Cherry Garden School in Peckham last month, as part of Southwark Council’s Thrive-to-25 project. It was aimed at those who run evening, weekend and holiday clubs who want to ensure their activities are inclusive of children and young people with SEND. 

The day included hands-on practical training sessions — shaped by attendees who run these clubs — on topics such as the use of Makaton signing and how to facilitate SEND activities.

Attendees at the SEND Speak Out Day in Peckham during a Makaton signing training session.

The Speak Out Southwark Thrive-to-25 project is a partnership between VoiceAbility and Southwark Council to improve the accessibility of local play and leisure services across the borough. 

The project is made up of young disabled people, autistic people and people with learning disabilities, and their parents and carers. This includes Speak Out leaders employed by VoiceAbility who are sharing their experiences to improve accessibility of local play and leisure activities in Southwark for young people with SEND. 

Speak Out Leader Jon said: I had the pleasure of attending VoiceAbility’s SEND Speak Out Day, which proved to be an outstanding networking event. 

Witnessing the groups we had previously visited and provided counsel to share their own experiences and struggles with others, while also extending support to those in need, was truly inspiring.

It is my belief that such events are critical and should be organised by all local authorities.

I experienced a profound sense of pride and fulfilment in the realisation of the positive impact that I have been able to achieve through my role as a Speak Out Leader at VoiceAbility.” 

Marine Bernier-Harrington – Co-founder and Director of The Neurodiversity Family Hub which offers a range of services for children and young people, including after-school clubs – was among those who attended. 

She said: VoiceAbility’s training was a great educational experience. Through engaging sessions and invaluable content, I not only acquired new skills such as Makaton sign language, but also gained a plethora of innovative ideas for interactive sessions with young people with SEND. 

Beyond learning, the training provided a unique opportunity for networking and fostering collaborations, and the team were warm and effective.” 

Miki Holloway, a VoiceAbility Speak Out Facilitator for the event, added: Each stage of the day was designed based on the input of play and leisure providers that we’ve been working with for five months, and it was great to see everyone come together with the shared aim of supporting SEND children and young people in the borough.

We’ll be following the same format for our next two events, and we’d love to see more providers of play and leisure activities for young people come along and add to the co-production process. It’s a great way to build your network and learn new skills to help improve the club you run.” 

Speak Out Leader Jon described the day as an outstanding networking event”.

The next two SEND Speak Out Days both take place at Cherry Garden School in Bellenden Road on Wednesday 21 February and Thursday 21 March. For more information visit our Speak Out Southwark page —where you can book on to these events — or email