Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has launched a new campaign to help tackle the stigma, discrimination and crime faced by local people who have a learning disability.
The I Am Me campaign (www.sabp.nhs.uk/iamme), launched during Learning Disability Awareness Week, seeks to raise awareness of learning disabilities, to dispel some of the myths around what that means and to encourage the general public to see the person beyond the condition.
Fiona Edwards, chief executive of Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, launched the campaign on August 20 by being the first to pledge what she will do to end stigma for people with a learning disability.
She also signed up to Mencap’s ‘Getting it Right Charter’ on behalf of Surrey and Borders Partnership, which sets out 9 key activities that all healthcare professionals should do to ensure that there is equal access to healthcare.
About 2.5% of the population is estimated to have a learning disability, which works out to about 32,500 people in Surrey and North East Hampshire. Of those, 4,000 are known to learning disabilities services.
“We’ve made great strides in improving the lives of people who have learning disabilities,” said Edwards. “People are living longer than ever before, are more able to live independently, to have a job, to have equal access to healthcare services, to build relationships, and to have families of their own.
“But research shows that there is still more to be done. People who have a learning disability can expect to live 25 years less on average, are more likely to have a potentially avoidable death and to experience discrimination or even crime because of their condition.”
Edwards added that many people still don’t get the support they need and don’t have equal access to many things non-disabled people take for granted.
“A big part of tackling this is about fighting negative attitudes about what people with a learning disability can achieve and about ensuring that people are supported to access services they are entitled to.”
Tatu Delaney, regional campaigns officer for Mencap, said: “We at Mencap want all health trusts and hospitals to sign up to the ‘Getting it right charter' to show their support for equal healthcare and their commitment in fighting the stigma that so often surrounds people with learning disabilities. Working together we can bring about positive changes and equal access to healthcare services. The I Am Me campaign is another important drive to help stop negative attitudes towards people with learning disabilities – and one I fully support.“