Hear Our Voice

We are people with learning disabilities employed, involved and leading a way forward at CHANGE. We can’t respond so quickly as everyone did yesterday to the report: Winterbourne View Time for Change

We have met today and here are some of our thoughts:

We want to start by remembering with deep heartbreak and anger the people with learning disabilities we know who have recently died in institutions: Connor Sparrowhawk, Nico, Stephanie Bincliffe.

It is a criminal offence how Stephanie Bincliffe was treated. She was treated no better than an animal for 7 years. If you treated an animal like that you would get arrested for animal cruelty. It sickens us and we’re deeply angry. It is wrong that we are put in institutions, including institutions in the community. We are unhappy and we feel that nothing improves.

We think the Bubb report is the beginning of a new way. It feels good to be involved in it.But we need to make sure that it has teeth.

We think that if a middle class man went to the doctor with depression or they are self harming they would get support. The doctor will see the middle class man as equal, he or she can understand the middle class person better. He or she respects the person. If you’re poor and you have a learning disability they automatically think if we have mental heath needs we must go in an institution where we are more at risk of abuse.

We feel that we’re often left out, hidden and forgotten. Stephanie Bincliff was forgotten, hidden and left out.

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We’ve been to lots of things for people with learning disabilities but you still don’t include us.We feel left out in the cold because people think we don’t understand anything. Jargon gives professionals power and takes our power away. When we’re in institutions we feel forgotten, isolated and that no one respects us. We feel the same when we’re not included in things about us. We feel isolated even though you’re all talking about us and you want to make things better for us. We don’t feel equal or that we have a real voice.

At our event on June 26th we had a voice. And we took that voice to the top people. They are listening. We think that Bubb and his steering group listened. They listened about our how important our rights are, they listened about employing us, they listened when we said we want more power. We helped them to understand things better by sharing some of our experiences. These meetings are good.

We think that things are connected. We think that having the Charter of Rights that underpins everything is really important and making it into a Law would make a difference to us. At the moment many people with learning disabilities don’t know how to complain and get pressurised not to complain. So how would a Charter of Rights or law about our rights make things better for us?

This is how we believe we can really have more power:

We need to break down barriers with professionals. We think that you often think we’re like children and we don’t know anything. We’re not equal with you and we should be equal. At the moment we are at the bottom of the Ladder of Power, underneath you and we need to move up.

We need to have work like you do co working to improve our lives like you

We need to be role models empowering other people with learning disabilities to have a voice.

For us having a learning disability feels like a label and a weight round our necks. When people see the label they think we can’t look after ourselves and we can’t do things, that we’re not very intelligent. We feel that this is often your image of us. When people don’t know we have a learning disability they treat us with respect and when they find out that we do they talk down to us. This makes us feel really angry and in our minds we’re saying ‘F*ck Off’.

We’re put in special schools, they say we’re thick, we HATE that word… and we can’t learn anything. They think we can’t have a job, have kids or do nothing for ourselves that’s our label. We think that its this label and the attitudes attached to it which mean we end up in institutions. People look down on us and we live with this label every day. We want people to look at us in the eye as equals.

We’re just a number or a statistic to commissioners, its heartless and its like we don’t count. We want to work as equals with commissioners and with you.

Actually we can do things for ourselves but we need to prove ourselves even to the people who are passionate to support us. Its a battle we’re fighting uphill. Our speech might not be clear, our disability effects us. Sometimes we can have 2 labels weighting us down.People without learning disabilities prefer other people who don’t have learning disability.

But……we are winners and role models in our own right. We want to push back the barriers. One of us supported 2 young women from Moldova to have a real voice and speak up. We can stand up for others.

If you talk about people with learning disabilities we’re never there, you need to include us and employ us as equals. Lumos are giving people with learning disabilities a real voice to speak up and we’re supporting them to close institutions down.  You can’t close institutions down without supporting us to have real power otherwise as a community of people with learning disabilities we will always be at the bottom of the Ladder of Power with no role models and no peer to peer support.

If all the institutions shut down and people with learning disabilities are properly supported in the community, if we don’t have real power through paid proper jobs we’ll be at the bottom of the Ladder of Power. We are passionate Pioneers like you, striving for a new way forward and we want to work with you all to change things. We want to work with all the self advocacy organisations, people with learning disabilities, Justice for LB campaigners, Norman Lamb, Simon Stevens and others to come up with action for supporting us to live as independently as we can, have jobs and be part of our communities.  This will give us the most power .

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