Treading in John Lennon’s footsteps to build a brighter future at Strawberry Field

A £115,000 grant from Allchurches Trust is helping the Salvation Army to transform an iconic Beatles landmark into a place that will help young adults with learning disabilities into work; and the first eight young people have just started on their journey!

The Strawberry Field site treasured by John Lennon as he grew up a stone’s throw away is being transformed into a visitor attraction featuring a new exhibition on the place, the song and John Lennon’s early life.

It will open in summer 2019 and the redeveloped site will become the training and placement hub for the Steps to Work trainees, as well as providing opportunities for trainees to work across a range of on-site facilities, including the visitor attraction itself, a café, a shop and landscaped gardens.

Paul Playford, Allchurches Trust Grants Officer, said: “We are so proud to support The Salvation Army with this inspiring project. We believe that the Strawberry Field renovation will have a significant impact on transforming the lives of young people in an area where this additional support is so badly needed. It will open doors to the world of work and volunteering, boosting skills and confidence, as well as enhancing community interaction, and it is great to see the first young people getting their training underway.”

Of one million people with learning difficulties in the UK, 93% are unemployed and 31% have no contact with family or friends.

Steps to Work is a 12 to 18 month programme designed for people with learning disabilities aged 18 to 25 to build the skills and knowledge needed for mainstream employment. It has been developed by The Salvation Army in partnership with The City of Liverpool College and local employers and the first eight trainees started the programme in October 2018. Three more cohorts of up to 14 will start in 2019.

Opportunities are varied with roles including working in customer services, retail, garden maintenance, business administration and catering, as well as placements at Strawberry Field.

Tina Callaway’s son is one of the first cohort of Steps to Work trainees. She said: “My son Anthony is 19 and is on the Autistic spectrum. Communication is very hard for him. When you have a child with special educational needs, all you want for them is for them to fulfil their potential, whatever that may be.

“My son has learnt loads at college which has been wonderful, but he’s not able to transfer those skills into other areas of his life. So, I know that when he finishes college, he won’t be able to get a job because he just won’t have the skills to function in a normal workplace.

“What he needs is an extra step, an extra lot of training which helps him to transfer the skills he’s learnt, builds his confidence and gives him support. And that’s what Strawberry Field aims to do.”

A choir formed of young people with learning disabilities gathered at the world-famous Abbey Road studios to create a special version of the iconic ‘Strawberry Field’ song to celebrate the project. Two students from the choir are amongst the first eight trainees and you can see the video here.

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