The winners of the annual Erica Awards for inspirational people and groups with learning disabilities have been announced.
The Erica Awards, run by support provider Dimensions, celebrate the achievements of people with learning disabilities and/or autism. The winner of the group category was Reach for the Stars. This group runs regular club nights in South Yorkshire each of which attracts up to 600 people with learning disabilities.
Reach for the Stars now plan to take their activities further by organising a talent search throughout South Yorkshire for people with learning disabilities and people with autism, called ‘The Star Factor’. The individual category winner was Simon Smith from Brighton, who has autism and is dedicated to helping people understand what it is like to have the condition. He delivers talks and presentations to schools, family groups and social care professionals. His perspective on the condition has benefitted many people and helped them to improve the services they deliver to other people with autism.
Steve hopes to develop his presentations into a career for himself and others. Runners-up in the Erica Awards were Heavy Load and Travel Buddy in the Groups category and Sarah Marchesi and Rebecca Ormian, in the Individuals category. Dimensions received more than 40 national entries and after a “difficult” judging process, two winners and four runners-up were selected. This year's winners and runners-up will be attending an awards ceremony at the Learning Disability Today Exhibition on November 29 at 1.30pm. T
he Erica Awards, first staged in 2010, are held in memory of Erica Morton, who died in 2009 after devoting her life to speaking up for people with learning disabilities.
Steve Scown, chief executive of Dimensions, and board member, Nigel Pink, will award the winners of the two categories up to £1,000 to support further projects that make a difference to the lives of people with learning disabilities and autism.
Scown, who was also chair of the judging panel, said: "Judging this year was very tough and a real reminder of the great achievements of people with learning disabilities and people with autism across the country. “There is a lot going on in the social care sector at the moment and by involving ourselves and others in projects like this we are able to re-focus on what is important; supporting people to live the life they choose and celebrating each and every personal achievement that people make. I am very proud of these awards and the people who entered."