loudhailerThe proposed People First England, an umbrella organisation for learning disability self-advocacy organisations, has received its first funding pledge.

The £5,000 funding, which has come from support provider Choice Support, came after Gary Bourlet, a self-advocate, spoke at the Housing & Support Alliance annual conference ‘Ordinary Lives Shifting Perspectives in Housing and Social Care’ and renewed his call for the need for a People First England to be established.

“We need one national voice for people with learning disabilities,” Bourlet said. He added that there is already a People First for Scotland and Wales.

Bourlet talked about the need for a national umbrella organisation for self-advocacy organisations – be they under the People First banner or not – that is run for and by people with learning disabilities.

For instance, many self-advocacy organisations have become too dependent on local authority funding, and that has comprised their independence. “A People First England could provide advice to self-advocacy organisations and help, such as with fund-raising, to ensure that they are financially secure and can plan for the future,” Bourlet said.

It could also help to support the establishment of new self-advocacy groups and re-start ones that have previously folded.

A People First England would also be in a good place to campaign nationally on learning disability issues and organise direct action, he added. It could also connect internationally with other national People First Organisations.

Later on Twitter, Bourlet said: “…People First England has its first £5000 funding” adding: “…a big thank you to choice support who contribute [sic] the first funding to People First England.”

Dr Simon Duffy, chief executive of the Centre for Welfare Reform, also gave his backing to People First England on Twitter: “United we stand, divided we fall” – it’s time to get behind People First England.”

Bourlet has previously written for Learning Disability Today on the need for a People First England. Click here to read his column: