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.