Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described a Lancaster social enterprise as a “brilliant local project” bringing hope to people who need it most.
Mr Corbyn spent more than two hours at The White Cross based studios of Outrageous Ambition, speaking to volunteers and service users, and getting to grips with some of the equipment.
He visited the canalside premises on Thursday, March 16.
Outrageous Ambition was set up by Simon Rudd, 47, at St Leonards House in the city, before expanding into the White Cross in 2012.
Mr Rudd was inspired to set up the organisation, which provides an inclusive space for artistic development in the community, by his daughter Chloe, who has cerebral palsy.
He said: “We wanted to create a space for people where they could think good things about themselves and achieve good things.
“We have people here who have had difficulty in their lives, who come together to create “art with impact”.
“We’re not trying to fill a gap, what we’re trying to say is it’s vital that vulnerable people receive the social care that they need.
“We aim to give their lives some purpose, rather than fill a gap in social provision that’s been cut.”
Outrageous Ambition welcomes people on the autistic spectrum, people with long term mental health conditions, people who are socially isolated, and people who are recovering from addiction.
Gavin Patterson, 40, from Lancaster, is a recovering alcoholic, and attends sessions most days.
He gave Mr Corbyn a demonstration on a screen printer, explaining how the machine worked.
The print read: “Peace, Build bridges not walls”, to which Mr Corbyn commented: “My wife would love this because she’s from Mexico. She feels very strongly about a wall. She doesn’t want one”.
Mr Patterson said: “When I came to the end of my treatment, I was put in touch with Simon, and I came down to have a look.
“I was a bit nervous at first, I was coming out of a life of addiction, and although I had worked previously, it was hard to get back to it.
“I had a lot of anxiety, but Simon is a nice guy, and he made me feel welcome.
“I come pretty much every day during the week, and my role changes, but now it’s all about printing.
“We’re now in the process of creating an online shop for all the things we produce.”
Mr Rudd said: “Our long term goal is to create at least 10 jobs within the next five years for people that can’t find work, make ourselves financially sustainable, and create artwork that we can give to the community.”
Mr Rudd said that he believed cuts to social care, long term, willl have a “hugely negative” impact on communities and will cost more money overall.
The father of two added: “My daughter Chloe has cerebral palsy, and she was the one that influenced my to do this.
“She was making the transition from school to adulthood, and there simply wasn’t enough things within the community to give people like her enough purpose to their lives.
“It’s morally wrong. I came up with the idea of the social enterprise after getting involved in a school for social entrepeneurs in Liverpool.
“I was inspired by what I saw, learned from the people I met, and cherry picked a bit of everything, and put it into what you can see here.”
Mr Corbyn praised Mr Rudd and the project, describing it as “brilliant”, adding that it provided “hope and space” for people who need it most.