Wednesday, 17 April 2024
Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Learning disabled people call for change on four key issues in national campaigning plan

THE learning disability charity, Hft, has launched a national campaigning plan, Voices for Our Future, which outlines four key policy areas it will call for change on in a bid to improve the lives of learning disabled adults.

Learning disabled people have identified challenges across social care, the world of work, housing and attitudes towards people with a disability as the biggest barriers to leading fulfilled lives. Hft’s Voices for Our Future plan calls for significant change to address these issues.

The plan will be launched officially at an event in Parliament this week, where MPs will have the opportunity to speak to learning disabled people to understand why these issues matter to them, and the change they want to see.

Kirsty Matthews, Chief Executive of Hft said:

“Based on wide-ranging conversations with learning disabled people, Voices for our Future explains the change that needs to happen to enable people with learning disabilities to live their best life possible.

“Over the next five years, we will work together to call for change in these four areas,” she explains.

“We want everyone, including people who make the decisions in Whitehall and Westminster, to listen to people with a learning disability and be part of the change that is so necessary.”

Hft’s campaigning work will include calls for long-term funding in the social care system to ensure that services are sustainable long into the future. Improved housing standards are also vital so that all homes built in the future are accessible and sustainable.

One of the people supported by Hft, Elliot Caswell, from North Shields, knows just how valuable an independent lifestyle can be for people with a learning disability. However, a lack of accessible and inclusive housing has stripped him of his independence.

Elliot said:

“After college, I had no choice but to move back home with my parents and brother, even though I’d love to live independently like any other young person.”

Shaun Lee from Hertfordshire is also directly affected by ongoing challenges within the social care sector. He said:

“After college, I had no choice but to move back home with my parents and brother, even though I’d love to live independently like any other young person.”

Shaun Lee from Hertfordshire is also directly affected by ongoing challenges within the social care sector, he said:

“Hft supports me with medicine, my money, going out and managing my Parkinson’s, but there are some big challenges in the wider social care sector which are impacting me and other people who have a learning disability.”

He explains how a lack of funding in the system means providers are unable to pay staff a fair wage reflecting their skills and the cost of living. He said:

“I have seen so many staff members come and go because they can get paid more elsewhere. It’s really frustrating as the people who support me keep changing. I prefer it when they stay the same and I can get to know them.”

Shaun also knows that funding pressures can prevent people from receiving the support they need to live the life they choose. He really enjoys volunteering for the National Trust at Hatfield Forest but has had to fight to make sure the local authority will provide enough funding so Hft can continue to support him to do what he loves.

Ms Matthews said:

“People with a learning disability also expressed their desire to have the opportunity to earn a fair wage in a job they enjoy. For this to happen, we need better support for people with a learning disability on their journey to, and while in, work as well as better support for employers to dispel misconceptions and encourage inclusive employment practices.”

To ensure their campaigns are truly informed by the voice and opinions of adults with a learning disability, Hft is encouraging learning disabled adults and those who support them to join the Walk in our Shoes Network. Through the network, individuals will be given the opportunity to join calls for change.

One of those who will be joining the network is Erin O’Donnell, who has autism and dyspraxia. Erin was an intern on DFN Project Search, a transition to employment programme, and is now working for Hft as a Supported Employment Advocate.

Erin said:

“I have been involved in Voices for our Future through DFN Project Search and Hft. I’m extremely passionate about helping people with learning disabilities and/or autism because I want disabled people to have the same chances as everyone else in life.

“Just because we need a little extra support doesn’t mean that we can’t achieve our dreams and aspirations. In order to make this possible, Hft needs your support to enable us to achieve our mission.”

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