Sarah Atkinson, a primary care learning disability nurse, has designed a new easy-to-read domestic abuse information card for people with learning disabilities.

Sarah said she created the card after realising that although people with learning disabilities are increasingly becoming victims of domestic abuse, they are often unable to access and understand generic domestic abuse information cards.

With help and support from the domestic violence and abuse subgroup at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Sarah developed a project plan. The aims were to:

  • Increase awareness of domestic abuse with people with a learning disability;
  • Increase awareness of domestic abuse with all services who support people with a learning disability;
  • Increase learning disability awareness in domestic abuse services;
  • Help professionals recognise, discuss and report domestic violence and abuse in this vulnerable group;
  • Prevent people with learning disabilities dying as a result of domestic violence and abuse.

The cards were produced in collaboration with people with learning disabilities

Several prototypes of the card were produced before the final design was agreed to, which was based on the opinions of people with learning disabilities themselves. People with learning disabilities also helped to choose the symbols and wording to ensure its accessibility.

The card is wallet-sized with a “discreet black cover” which folds out, providing national agency phone numbers and other useful easy-read information.

Initially, 2,000 cards were produced and printed, all of which were snapped up on its launch day. Since then, thousands more cards have been printed and sent out to local specialist learning disability services.

All officers at Nottinghamshire Police now carry a copy of the card to help improve communication when attending domestic abuse incidents and the card is now available in every GP surgery across the city of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

The card has also proven a success among children, people for whom English is not their first language and people with dementia.

“The potential to transform people's life for the better”

Sarah hopes that the resource will eventually be adopted nationally by the largest domestic violence and abuse organisations, so that it is available for everyone who needs it.

She told Nursing Times: “This simple idea has the potential to transform people’s life for the better by enabling them to get help and support. My proudest point was handing a copy of the card to the woman who inspired the work and watch her pop it into the back of her phone case.

“Feedback from professionals who have used the cards, including nurses, GPs and the police, shows that there was a real need for this resource for people with learning disabilities and that it has paved the way for more conversations. We must do everything we can to help identify survivors of domestic violence and abuse before they become victims.”


To download Sarah's domestic abuse information card here