Reach Learning Disability

“Small changes can make a huge different to well-being” Zelma Hutchinson tells us how Reach Learning Disability is helping people with learning disabilities improve their health and lifestyle

For Zelma Hutchinson, the Centre Manger for Reach Mansfield, the best part of her job is seeing lives changed. “One gentleman who attends our day centre told me, ‘This is the only place I’ve never been bullied and I feel valued’, which really moved me. Unfortunately this is a common experience for those we work with, who often face severe challenges and stigma. We do our best to show them they matter and they all have a lot to offer. It’s great to see their self-esteem and independence blossom in a nurturing environment.”

Zelma started working for Reach Learning Disability – which has four day centres across Nottinghamshire that provide informal courses and social activities for adults with learning disabilities – in April 2018 after a career in nursing. “It was an exciting progression for me, especially as I am from Mansfield. I have worked in the health and social care and charitable sectors for a while, but had never come across a day centre like this one. It’s very person-centred, supportive and empowering for the people who attend. The role also offers the opportunity to make a real difference to people’s lives and to my own community.”

The centre offers activities on a weekly set timetable that includes nutrition and fitness, dance, crafts, arts, cookery and computer IT skills classes. “Our aim is to enhance the quality of life for everyone who attends and support them to have a full life and overcome challenges that people with learning disabilities can face. It can be hard to get in to employment, for example, but we do our best to facilitate this with supported volunteering roles within the organisation. We have a philosophy that we don’t do it for people, we do it with people. We’re about people being the best they can be.”

During her time at the centre, Zelma has seen lives changed through this approach. “A young woman, who has attended the centre for nearly a year, came to this country as a refugee from Syria. She has cerebral palsy, so her physical mobility is impaired, and she had led an isolated life. It took a long time for her mum to trust us to support her daughter, but now she doesn’t come with her any more and her daughter attends cookery sessions and dance classes. Her level of independence has just gone through the roof. She’s just so happy.”

The centre also has a strong healthy living ethos. Reach raised £43,728 in The Candis Big Give, which will go towards the delivery of a programme to help adults with learning disabilities reduce their risk of diabetes, or better manage an existing diagnosis, through healthier choices. “We’re very much looking forward to delivering this course at Reach Mansfield. This is an area of some deprivation in comparison to others, which often leads to poorer health outcomes. Recent data also indicates people with learning disabilities have nearly double the risk of developing diabetes as the general population, sometimes because they are not given the information to make healthier choices, or because they struggle to access those healthier choices, whether through being on a low income, isolation, or difficulties understanding and translating the general message into something that is meaningful to them and the choices they make.”

Reach’s Big Give project is all about encouraging people to make small, sustainable changes. “We want to support people to make their own decisions and healthier lifestyle choices through fun, engaging activities and education. We will offer a range of physical activities – such as swimming, ball games, boccia, yoga and dance classes – and educational classes on diet and nutrition. We can help people set goals, or we might just encourage somebody to try something new rather than reaching for their usual snack out of habit. It’s all about encouraging people to just try things and
see if they like them.”

Zelma hopes this new project will have huge benefits not just for the centre’s regular clients, but also for the wider community. “We ran a project specifically about diabetes a while back and people really did make different lifestyle choices as a result. One client had Type 2 diabetes and used vending machines regularly to buy chocolate and sugary snacks. After attending the course and gaining a better understanding of her diabetes, she doesn’t use them any more and tells everyone why. We have had parents and carers tell us our clients have shared with them what they have learned, so it has a cascading effect.

“We are also trying to make links in the wider community and are currently working with specialist schools in the area. If we can get messages out to young people about diabetes at an early stage it will hopefully have a preventative effect. Small changes can really make a huge difference to someone’s health, happiness and overall well-being, and we want to get the message out to as many people as we can.”

  • Reach supports over 250 people with learning disabilities a week at its centres in mansfield, Newark, Southwell and at Flower Pod (its horticultural social enterprise based just outside of Southwell), helping them gain the confidence they need to make a better quality of life
  • It is broadly estimated that approximately 2% of the adult population will have a learning disability, and the estimated number of adults with a learning disability in Nottinghamshire is expected to rise from 15,227 in 2017 to 16,660 in 2035

Reach Learning Disability

Small Changes, Big Difference


➸ For adults with special needs, the risk factors associated with developing diabetes are often social including living on a low income, not knowing how to sustain a healthy diet and lifestyle, isolation and limited physical activity. The money raised by Reach in The Candis Big Give will help provide 100 adults with learning disabilities fun, engaging activities delivered by qualified staff to help enable them to reduce their risk of diabetes or better manage existing diabetes by making small, sustainable changes. The course will be delivered across the charity’s four centres. Visit to find out more.

As told to Hannah McLoughlin. Photos Fabio De Paola


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Make a difference

We’ve highlighted some of the charities taking part in The Candis Big Give. For a full list, and details of the life-changing projects they’re raising money for, visit


What it does: Provides free recreation camps for children and families affected by serious illnesses.Candis Big Give Project: To run three sibling camps across the UK during 2019.
Location: National
Total raised: £22,606


What it does: Gives support to those affected by brain tumours.Candis Big Give Project: To launch a national early-diagnosis campaign.
Location: National
Total raised: £69,979


What it does: Supports families with children with Rett Syndrome,
a genetic neurological disorder.Candis Big Give Project: To recruit six regional Communications Champions who will support parents and carers of children with Rett Syndrome.
Location: National
Total raised: £13,379


What it does: Improves awareness of ME and helps
those affected by it.
Candis Big Give Project: To fund support for those affected by ME.
Location: National
Total raised: £126,857


What it does: Offers accessible treatment to sufferers of migraines and primary headaches.
Candis Big Give project: To train another headache specialist doctor for two sessions a week for one year.
Location: National
Total raised: £19,304


What it does: Fund vital research into cancer and its treatment.Candis Big Give Project: To find new ways of tackling cancer through the charity’s Pioneer Award, which fund innovative ideas to treat the disease more effectively.
Location: National
Total raised: £110, 998

How buying a subscription helps…

In 2019, Candis Club will donate at least £250,000 from members’ magazine subscription revenue to health charities taking part in The Candis Big Give. Any additional funds will go to charities at the discretion of the General Committee of
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