More than 30,000 young people with disabilities and special educational needs will be able to take part in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, thanks to grant of £300,000 from the Freemasons.
The Freemasons have become a strategic partner of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE), funding a new national programme to upskill its team and volunteers. The programme will also help enrol more schools and clubs, to ensure all young people have access to DofE.
To make it possible, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), the Freemasons’ charity, have teamed up to enable the charity to reach at 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 young people will achieve a DofE Award sponsored by the 200,000-strong UGLE, to support The Duke of Edinburgh's Award.
The programme has been designed to make DofE participation possible for students with diverse difficulties and disabilities. It will help the students to build crucial personal 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 a DofE Award is remarkable and will be life-changing for young people with physical or learning difficulties, who are often excluded from adventurous activities due to a lack of accessible equipment, facilities, trained support staff and funding.
The programme aims to increase the opportunities for young people with special needs, as well as increasing the number of specialist Leaders by providing bespoke training to adults supervising young people with special needs. The aim is to have 240 more adults trained to support young people with SEND by 2024.
The initiative also includes a plan to offer support to new delivery partners that work with young people with SEND, to encourage them to offer the DofE.
His Royal Highness, The Duke 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 his father-in-law King George VI. Throughout his 99 years, he was associated with some 992 charities, either as president, patron or honorary member.
Dr David Staples, chief executive of the UGLE, said: 'Prince Philip was well known for his charity work, having been involved with numerous organisations. At UGLE, we looked for a project that would honour Prince Philip's memory. Helping young people with special educational needs and becoming a strategic partner of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award is therefore a great honour for us.
'Helping the DofE was an easy decision as Freemasonry's core values are charity, integrity, respect and friendship,' he added.
Caroline Glen, Director of Fundraising, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, said: 'We’re very grateful to the Freemasons for their generous grant, which will give many thousands of young people with disabilities and special educational needs the chance to take part in 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 on average 18.5 million hours each year as volunteers in various areas, including driving vulnerable people to the hospital, preparing meals, taking care of people at risk, organising care packages, and producing scrubs, personal protective 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 help communities in various critical areas, including food banks, support for unpaid carers, 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 of Edinburgh, the Freemasons can also count other Royal Family members among their number, including HRH The Duke of Kent, who is the longest-serving Grand Master of the UGLE.