Mencap has launched a campaign, called Hear My Voice, that seeks to unite the voices of people with learning disabilities, their families, carers, campaigners and others to ensure the next Government addresses the key issues facing people with a learning disability and their families.
Some of the key issues the charity has highlighted are that: • Three people with a learning disability suffer preventable deaths in the NHS every day • A quarter of adults with a learning disability spend less than one hour outside their home each day • Eight in 10 family carers of a loved one with a learning disability have reached crisis point.
While these and many other issues affect the 1.4 million people in the UK with a learning disability and their families on a daily basis, they are rarely, if ever, debated during elections. Furthermore, many politicians do not understand what a learning disability is, or how these issues impact on people’s lives. This, according to Mencap, is why people with a learning disability need to be listened to.
Ciara Lawrence, a campaigns assistant at Mencap who has a learning disability, said: “I can still remember the day I was told I had a learning disability. I was angry and upset. The kids at school told me I was thick. The teachers told me I wouldn’t be able to do anything with my life. But here I am. I’m married, living in my own home, and working in a job I love. These are things I could only dream about when I was little. Sadly, these things are still a dream for many other people with a learning disability. This has to stop.
“I have a right to make decisions about my own life, just like everyone else does. It is really important that the voices of people with a learning disability are listened to because they are the experts in what matters to them.
“Having grown up with a learning disability, I know that having the right support from people around me, from my family and friends, makes all the difference. With that support, I can choose the things in life that I need and want to achieve. I don’t want any child with a learning disability to go through what I went through – to be told you’re worthless, no good, stupid. Around 12,000 children will be born who are likely to have a learning disability from now until the general election, so this is our chance to make a difference for their futures.”
Getting heard Hear my voice is designed to provide a platform for people with a learning disability and their families to make their voices heard – from sharing what matters to them to holding an event to get people with a learning disability registered to vote. Through grassroots campaigning, Hear my voice aims to ensure the next Government improves the lives of people with a learning disability and their families.
“People with a learning disability and their families have achieved great things over the past 70 years [since Mencap was formed], but we still have a long way to go until they are treated the same as everyone else, valued equally, listened to and fully included in society,” said Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap. “Many of our hard won achievements are unstable in today’s political and economic climate, where fights are won today only to be fought again tomorrow.
“We have to make sure the next government makes a lasting difference to the lives of every person with a learning disability and their families. To do this, we need to make sure the learning disability community’s voice is heard – loud and clear. When we were founded in 1946, almost 300 campaigning voices were able to influence huge changes for people with a learning disability. We now have millions of voices, so imagine the difference we can make together!”
Local Mencap groups will be harnessing this spirit by bringing communities together to run regional events throughout the UK to launch the Hear my voice campaign. Two flagship events will be held in Sheffield and London by Sheffield Mencap and Brent Mencap respectively.
Ann O’Neill, executive director of Brent Mencap, said: “Brent Mencap supports people with a learning disability to find out what is happening locally and give them a platform to voice their opinions on the issues that matter to them. The Hear my voice launch event in Brent will showcase the hard work and determination of these individuals to be heard. We’re hoping that our united voice will concentrate the minds of all local candidates to ensure they seek out and speak up on behalf of all groups in Brent.”