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Merton Mencap : Buddies

Open during the summer holidays 2020

Our Buddies project is for young people aged 12 – 18 years. It runs on Saturdays throughout the year as well as weekdays over Easter, summer, half term and Christmas holidays. We organise outings for young people to enjoy leisure activities of their own choice within the community. 

Meet and finish in Wimbledon. 10 places per day. Transport not provided


Who to contact

020 3963 0599 for initial enquiries

Time / Date Details

When is it on
Saturdays term time 1.30pm top 5.30pm term-time. 10am – 4pm in holidays

Other Details


£5 a week


Referral required
Referral Details

Social Services referral required

The scheme is open to Merton residents only and does not accept out of borough referrals.

Local Offer


A weekly leisure club for children/young people with a learning disability and autism which takes place on Saturday afternoons, also offering additional days during the school/college holidays.

Buddies provides for two groups which alternates each week:

  1. Group 1 for children/young people who have moderate to high needs
  2. Group 2 for children/young people who have complex needs
Contact Name
Projects Manager (Young People)
Contact Telephone
020 8254 8389 or 07799 315043
Contact Email
Merton Mencap Buddies website
Quality Assurance
Affiliated to the Royal Mencap Society. London Borough of Merton approved service provider. Awarded the London Youth Quality Mark

Detailed Local Offer

1. Aims of the service

The purpose of Buddies is to support young people with a learning disability to access mainstream activities, reducing their isolation and promoting their inclusion in the community.  The project encourages the promotion of independence and life skills, while also providing a meaningful short break for family carers.

The children/young people will be supported to develop in the following areas:

  • communication
  • confidence
  • creativity
  • managing feelings
  • planning and problem solving
  • relationships
  • resilience and determination

Each child/young person attending Buddies will be supported to form a Personal Plan which includes their goals/targets.  These goals/targets reflect what the child/young person will achieve through their attendance, and are tracked by the staff at the club.   Goals and targets can be linked to those included in the child/young person’s Education Healthcare Plan.

Children/young people and their families have the opportunity to try the service for a session to see whether they would like to join.

2. Location and delivery

Buddies is not run from any base.  The activities are decided and the group meets at an agreed meeting point somewhere in Merton.  Once the group has met up, they all travel together to the location of the activity, wherever that is.

Group 1 is encouraged to use public transport as much as possible to get to the location of the activity. 

Group 2 is provided with a minibus, when needed, as the means to transport people to the activity.

3. Who the service is for

Buddies is a service for children/young people aged between 12-18 years with a learning disability and autism living in the London Borough of Merton, while also providing a meaningful short break for their family carers.

The service is provided to children/young people who have severe learning disabilities, autism, and additional needs which may include:

  • physical disabilities
  • sensory disabilities
  • medical needs (including allergies)
  • challenging behaviours
  • moving and handling needs (mobility needs)
  • a speech / language disorder

Group 1 (moderate to high needs) has 8 places

Group 2 (complex needs) has 6 places

A financial contribution is sought from families living outside of Merton who wish to have an additional place at the club for their child/young person.

4. Accessibility

Yes, Buddies is fully accessible to children with SEND and their families in the following ways:

  • Staff have received training in providing specialist care for children/young people with a learning disability who have additional care needs, including those with moving and handling needs, medical needs, additional feeding requirements and challenging behaviours
  • Transport is provided for children/young people with complex needs (Group 2) which supports them to access community activities

We would not exclude any child/young person from this service unless health and safety grounds warrant it.

5. Opening times and availability

Buddies Group 1 (for children/young people with moderate to high needs) runs on alternating Saturdays between 1.30pm-5.30pm (4 hours) all year.

Buddies Group 2 (for children/young people with complex needs) runs on alternating Saturdays between 1.30pm-5.30pm (4 hours) all year.

Buddies (Group 1 and Group 2) runs on additional days during the school/college holidays between 10am and 4pm (12 days in total during the year– 6 for Group 1 and 6 for Group 2)

Places are booked in advance and a schedule of activities provided to the child/young person and their families.

6. How to start using the service

Access to the service is currently on a referral-only basis through assessment by Merton Council’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Integrated Service team (SENDIS). Once Merton Council has made the referral to us, we carry out a home visit to meet the family and the child/young person in order to establish their interests and support needs, and to complete a Personal Plan.

We are, however, currently planning to provide this service for families who receive a Personal Budget.  We ask families who are interested in this service to get in touch with us for more information.

7. Measuring our performance

The aims of Buddies will be measured in the following ways:

Personal Plans: Each child/young person will be supported to form a Personal Plan which includes their goals and aspirations in attending the club.  These goals and aspirations are determined by the child/ young person or with support from their parent or staff.   The Personal Plan is monitored and tracked to show the child/ young person’s progress and achievements

Children/Young People evaluations: Accessible evaluations are conducted with the children/young people attending Buddies in the form of 1:1 interviews and group sessions

Parental feedback: Evaluations are conducted with parents to determine that they have confidence in Buddies, that the activities at Buddies are appropriate for their child/young person, and that they feel they are receiving a quality short break

8. Quality assurance

Merton Mencap is required to adhere to stringent governance as part of our affiliation to Royal Mencap Society.  In addition:

  • we have a comprehensive set of Standards, Policies, Procedures and Codes of Conducts which all staff and volunteers are required to adhere to
  • our senior managers conduct internal audits each month, and report their findings to our Executive Board (trustees)
  • Merton Mencap has been awarded the London Youth Quality Mark (AQYP) in relation to our services for children and young people
  • The managers of our services for children and young people contribute to local multi-agency meetings with providers of other services for children and young people in order to share information (consent allowing) to ensure high quality care planning for the child/young person
  • Merton Mencap is registered with OFSTED for some of our services
9. How we capture and use information to improve our service

We offer a variety of means to communicate with children/young people and their families, including email and text messaging, written letters (including accessible letters for the child/young person), PECS and MAKATON. 

For Buddies, we organise activities well in advance and publish these to the child/young people and their families so it is clear what is being offered.

We take responsibility for managing the process of planning the care for the child/young person.  Each child/young person will have a written care plan in relation to managing personal care, moving and handling, managing challenging behaviour and managing any medical needs.  Parental agreement is sought in relation to the assessment, care plans, risk assessment and permissions for outings.

All information received from families is stored securely in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

10. Staffing

Buddies is managed by our Projects Manager (young people), who is based at our Merton Mencap office in Mitcham.  Buddies is run by a team of 4 staff and 2 volunteers, one of whom is the Team Leader and responsible on the day.

Contact details of the Projects Manager (young people) and Team Leader are provided to children/young people and their families.

Our ratio of staff to children/young people at all our services never falls below 1:3 for community activities and 1:5 for activities taking place at a base.

11. Staff training

The Projects Manager (young people), who is responsible for managing Buddies, has received training to Level 5 (Diploma in Leadership for Health & Social Care for Services for Children and Young People). 

All staff supporting children/young people at Buddies receive mandatory training in Safeguarding Children, Health & Safety (manual handling) and Equal Opportunities & Diversity at a level a relevant to their role.  Staff delivering more specialist care at are provided with additional training in areas such as administrating medication, gastrostomy feeding, and using hoists and slings.

At least one member of staff at all Buddies sessions has received First Aid training.

12. Staff qualifications (minimum)

We require our managers (Projects Managers) of our services for children and young people to have received training equivalent to Level 5.

We require all staff who deliver Buddies to have experience of supporting children/young people with a learning disability or special need in a social care or an educational setting.  All our staff and volunteers are required to complete our mandatory training in the areas of Safeguarding Children, Health & Safety (manual handling) and Equal Opportunities & Diversity.

13. Quality assurance standards and membership of regulatory bodies

Merton Mencap is a registered charity (no. 1113444) and company limited by guarantee (no. 5692213).

We are affiliated to the Royal Mencap Society (

Merton Mencap has been awarded the London Youth Quality Mark (AQYP) in relation to our services for children and young people

14. Paying for the service

Merton Mencap receives a grant from Merton Council to run Buddies.

We do not require families to pay a mandatory contribution towards the running of Buddies in its current form although we invite families using the service to make a donation to Merton Mencap which can be restricted for use by the club. 

We are currently planning to run this service so families can pay for a place using their personal budget.  We ask families to get in touch with us for more information

15. Who to contact for further information

For further information about Buddies, please contact Merton Mencap:

Projects Manager (Young People)

The Merton Mencap main office number, central email address and web site is:

To contact Merton Council (regarding them referring your child/young person for the Buddies), contact your social worker/care manager (if you have one) or telephone Merton Council Integrated Service Team on:

  • Tel: 020 8274 4901
Last updated: 08/07/2020
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