loudhailerThe Department of Health is likely to end funding for the National Forum of People with Learning Disabilities and the National Valuing Families Forum from March 2017, leading to worries that the voice of people with learning disabilities will now not be heard at a national level.

A statement on the National Forums’ website (www.nationalforums.co.uk) said that the organisations were told last week that it was “very unlikely” that they would receive any more funding from the Department for Health after their current contract ends in March next year.

The statement added that the host organisation for the Forums, Inclusion North, will carry on working with all members of the forums, nationally, regionally and locally. The organisation wants to ensure they are well supported, and the work, knowledge and networks that they have developed over the past decade is not lost. 

In response, the National Forum of People with Learning Disabilities has decided to campaign against this decision. Initially, you can follow their progress on Twitter using the hashtag #novoice. The National Valuing Families Forum is meeting this week to plan its response.

Both forums have worked hard to make sure that the voices of people with learning disabilities and families are heard at a national level and can influence what is happening and have a voice and be heard by the government.

The decision has been met with dismay by those in the sector. For instance, in a tweet, Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group said: “such short sighted funding cuts.” Also on Twitter, Jenny Carter, one of the leads for self-advocacy on the Wirral and a director of Together All Are Able, said: “Don't let the government silence us.”

In a blog, Sue Turner from the National Development Team for Inclusion, said: “No wonder people have lost faith in government commitment to people with learning disabilities and their claims about ‘nothing about us without us’ being part of policy.

“At a time of unprecedented cuts to services, the ability of people with learning disabilities and families to voice their concerns at a national level is likely to be drastically undermined. This would be a sad and regressive step.

“Whatever happened to ‘No Voice Unheard, No Rights Ignored’…?”

You can read Sue Turner’s blog in full here.