A North East charity that helps people with learning difficulties to navigate relationships has been named as one of only eight organisations nationally to be shortlisted for one of the UK’s biggest diversity awards.

The Josephine and Jack Project, which uses anatomically accurate cloth figures as vital educational tools for people with learning disabilities, found out this week it’s in the running to be crowned the UK’s best Community Organisation in the disability category at The National Diversity Awards 2019, following a record number of nominations for this year’s accolades.

The news places the unique resource that helps vulnerable men and women to safely explore matters of sexual health and wellbeing, among the ranks of the country’s most inspirational grass roots organisations.

Among those due to be honoured at the 2019 awards ceremony at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral on 20th September, are a reformed gangster, a Junior Bake Off star and a host of other campaigners and activists working to combat injustice and discrimination, and promote diversity and inclusion in many different ways.

Chief Executive at The Josephine and Jack Project, Simon James, said: “We’re absolutely over the moon to have been shortlisted when there are many amazing organisations out there doing such brilliant work.

“It’s great that a project like ours, that helps people with learning disabilities get to grips with the complexities, rights and responsibilities that come about in loving relationships, along with many other aspects of life that the rest of us take for granted, has been recognised nationally.

“Josephine and Jack are really looking forward to putting on their posh clothes for the trip to Liverpool in September.”

Each Josephine and Jack figure has unique features, such as a detachable breast or testicle with a detectable lump, to be used in a bespoke range of workshops exploring general health, sexual health, mental health and wellbeing.

The charity, based at Newcastle’s Good Space, started life as part of Them Wifies community arts organisation before becoming a charity in its own right. It now works with community groups, schools and a range of clients across the North East, with custom-made Josephines and Jacks being used across the country under license to the project.

The National Diversity Awards have paid tribute to more than 700 grass root charities and diversity champions since its inception, including actor Warwick Davis, football’s equality and inclusion organisation Kick It Out, and freedom fighter Abbey Kiwanuka.

Host of this year’s ceremony, actress and comedian Sally Phillips, said: “Acknowledging and celebrating the hard work and stand out achievements of role models and community groups throughout the UK is a genuine honour for me.

“I experienced this fabulous ceremony first hand in 2016 and can’t wait to be back celebrating the dedication and commitment of some of the UK’s most luminous and exceptional people.”

A spokesperson for MI5, one of the award sponsors said: “It is MI5’s mission to keep the country safe, and it’s vital that we represent the diverse society we seek to protect. We are at our strongest when we have the richest mix of the best talent, working together in an environment that allows people to thrive.”

Paul Sesay, Founder and CEO of the National Diversity Awards, added: “A record number of nominations and votes were received this year, the most we have ever had. So many heartfelt testimonies really showcased how these people and organisations are having a profound impact on the lives of others, and it’s a privilege to recognise their bravery, resilience and courage.”

To view the full awards shortlist, visit nationaldiversityawards.co.uk/shortlist. Or to find out more about Josephine and Jack, visit josephineandjackproject.co.uk.