Stamping out discrimination in Europe: Reflecting on time in the Czech Republic

After a great week in the Czech Republic, Shaun and Piers reflect on their time and the impact it has had on the social care professionals they have worked with.

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At the end of the two days of training, we can say that it was a success. The social workers and self-advocates were really taking on board our ideas about peer-to-peer support, role modelling, self-advocacy, accessible resources, parenting, sexuality and other issues for people with intellectual disabilities, supported decision-making and independent living.

On the second day we thought it would be a good idea to talk about ‘Action Plans.’ Actions Plans are a tool for helping build a person’s confidence to live independently and make decisions for themselves. The social workers from Brno were particularly interested in hearing about this tool. But we were careful to point out that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ and while an action plan might benefit some people it won’t work for everyone. Support with decision making and independent living is about taking it one person at a time. This means being flexible based on who the person is and what they want from their life. We also talked about risk taking. Shaun pointed out that people with intellectual disabilities – like all people – need to able to take risks. Sometimes social workers are scared to ‘take their gloves’ off because they’re scared they will get in trouble if something goes wrong. But we wanted to move the focus from preventing risk to protecting the right to a normal life. And that means making mistakes and growing – not being wrapped in cotton wool.

At the end of the day we asked participants for their feedback. Many people were struck by the co-working model. They said the model, as well as how we work together, was inspiring. Some people seemed surprised that it was our first time working together. Some social workers who were there said that they would go back and try to develop their own co-working arrangements.

We were really pleased and we hope that in a years time we can see co-working and self-advocacy happening in the Czech Republic. Many of the participants said that they were inspired by Shaun’s work at CHANGE.

Shaun: “Including people with intellectual disabilities in paid peer-to-peer roles was the next step for the Czech Republic.  I really like working with Piers and I’d like to work together in the future because it was really comfortable. We sometimes jumped in to comment on each others presentation and our different skills and knowledge were really complementary.”

Piers: “I was really pleased with how we worked together and Shaun gave me a lot to think about – including making my slides more accessible!!”

We’d like to thank our hosts here and the training participants and we hope to do more of this kind of thing in the future. Stopping discrimination against people with disabilities – preventing hate crime and including people in all areas of life – won’t happen over night in the Czech Republic. It will take time. We hope our presentation took us one step closer to that goal.

We will post photos of our trip soon.

Your humble correspondents from Prague,

Shaun and Piers”

Reflections on Japan – Learning from each other

Following their return to the UK, Sarah and Joanne reflect on their time in Japan and the effect it has had, both personally and professionally.

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Hi, we are Sarah Marsay and Joanne Kennedy and this is our fourth blog about co-working together in Japan. We are now back in the UK!

At the end of our time in Wakayama there was a workshop day. There were presentations from participants from Denmark, Germany, Japan and the UK about including people with disabilities in employment and as part of the community. There were also some discussion groups. We talked about shadowing and peer support.

On Saturday we went to stay with a Japanese family as part of a ‘homestay’. We met the mother and daughter in the morning and went out for the day around Wakayama and Osaka.

In Wakayama we went to the fish market and the castle. We had been looking at the castle up on the hill so it was good to go and see it up close.

When we went back to our homestay house we found out that it was joined onto a temple! The father of our homestay family is a Buddhist monk.

Then we got the train to Osaka. We went to see things which Osaka is famous for in Japan. We went to a shrine. We had crepes. We took lots of photos.

We also made plastic ‘takoyaki’ in a workshop. Takoyaki are a bit like small fish cakes with a piece of octopus in the middle. They are very popular in Osaka.

Joanne, “It was a really fun day. I liked making the takoyaki and the crepes. We laughed lots.”

Then we got the train back to Wakayama and had tea in a traditional Japanese restaurant. We had to take our shoes off and sit on the floor. Our homestay family ordered lots of different things for us to try.

Sarah, “It was an amazing experience staying with a Japanese family. I would like to say a really big thank you to them for looking after us so well.”

The next day there was a formal farewell dinner with our homestay families. We also prepared our final presentation with everyone from our ‘people with disabilities’ work programme. Then we flew back to Tokyo on a plane.

The next day was our last day in Tokyo. In the morning, we went for a walk around the Imperial Palace gardens. We saw the Imperial Palace and some of the other famous buildings and statues.

In the afternoon there were presentations from the three different work programmes – people with disabilities, elderly people and youth. It was good to hear about what the other participants had been doing and what people had learned.

We got back to the UK on Tuesday 11th March.

Joanne, “This was my first trip abroad and I learned lots. It was great to learn about how charities work differently in different countries. It was also good to see people with disabilities in paid employment and being part of the community. I am inspired to do more travelling and to experience new things.”

Sarah, “The exchange programme to Japan was an amazing experience. I have learned lots about the differing position of charities in the participating countries, and about how people with disabilities are supported. I have also learned a lot about co-working and inclusive working practices.”

We hope to be able to share what we have learned about co-working and inclusion with our colleagues from NHS England and CHANGE, and with other people who are interested.

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Supported Decision Making in the Czech Republic – Making an inclusive community

This week Shaun from CHANGE is Co-working in the Czech Republic with Dr Piers Gooding, Research Associate at the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Shaun and Piers are delivering training on Supported Decision Making and independence. Here in their first guest blog they reflect on their first day.

Today we ran a workshop in Prague for around 25 people. They were mostly social workers and advocacy workers. But there were also two self-advocates with learning disabilities. The group was very interested in co-working. They reported that it was very inspiring. They were interested in how we worked together. They were interested to hear that we were being paid equally and that we were contributing different skills. For example, we took turns to present on different topics. Sometimes we added some comments to each others presentations but we never took over. It was a nice balance. One of the participants said that she thought we had been working together for years. But we told them that this is our first time ever working together on training! She was very surprised and we received a round of applause. But not just that, we also got to know the training participants at the beginning of the day. We got to know the hard work they were doing in the Czech Republic to uphold the human rights of people with learning disability.

Shaun did a presentation about what CHANGE do. They were very interested in the work CHANGE does on parenting, sexuality and relationships, co-working, and independent living. They were particularly interested in co-working. Sexuality was an issue that was raised a number of times. We did a case study about a young woman who was starting a relationship. The conversation got very lively!

We also spoke about supported decision-making and how it is part of people’s human right to be equal. To make mistakes, to learn, to grow in confidence, and to self-direct their lives. Shaun spoke about his own example of ‘taking his gloves off’ and making mistakes but learning in order to grow. If you put us in a glass cage we will never be independent, Shaun said. Piers spoke about how human rights can be connected to good support by social workers. All over the world governments must move toward supported decision-making, including providing peer to peer support. Too much money is being wasted on institutions and on services that exclude people with disabilities. Instead, persons with intellectual disability need to be directing the services for them. This includes inspection of services by persons with learning disabilities. People with learning disabilities inspecting services helps to make sure that support workers don’t have too much power. Because if they have too much power, people with learning disabilities don’t have any control over their own life. At the end of a long day of work, we got some very good feedback. One participant said that this type of training was needed for other professionals, including judges and medical professionals. When we finished, we had to take a bus for two and a half hours to Brno. Brno is another city in the Czech Republic.

Tomorrow we will do it all again for 18 people. For now we are sitting and enjoying a nice cold drink and sitting down for some good Czech food. Shaun wanted to finish by saying that despite the beer he has been behaving – no pudding!! (“That is true Catherine!” he says).

Signing out from Brno, Czech Republic,

Shaun and Piers.