People First England (PFE), a body for self-advocates with learning disabilities has launched, appointed its first two workers and outlined its immediate plans.
The main aim of PFE is to get the real voices of people with learning disabilities heard in the media and in local and national elections.
PFE’s first two workers are Gary Bourlet (pictured), a self-advocate with learning disabilities who came up with the idea and has been campaigning its creation, and Kaliya Franklin, a disability campaigner and author of the Benefit Scrounging Scum blog (http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.co.uk/)
Since launching, the response to PFE from the learning disability community has been “overwhelmingly positive,” according to Franklin. “We have had lots of offers of support, encouragement and interest in working with PFE,” she added.
“We are talking to all sorts of different charities, disabled people's groups and individuals about what we all think needs to happen with PFE.”
One area that PFE thinks is particularly important is training people with learning disabilities to be speakers to the media. “We think that having people with learning disabilities speaking for themselves in the media is vital – there are physically disabled people we can think of with comedy shows, parts in soap operas or who appear to give their views on important news stories,” said Franklin. “But we can't think of anyone these days with a learning disability who is regularly in the media.
“We believe that physically disabled people speaking for themselves in the media has had a positive impact on the public's understanding of disability. We hope to trial our first training in March or April.”
As PFE becomes more established there are plans to work with people with learning disabilities and other self-advocacy groups to think more about:
• What will be the mission and goals of PFE?
• How can PFE help self-advocates and self-advocacy groups?
• What kind of projects could be done with self-advocates and self-advocacy groups
• How will PFE be controlled by people with learning disabilities?
• Should other disabilities be included as well as learning disabilities?
• How will membership work?
• Would PFE work regionally and internationally as well?
• What role could people without learning disabilities play in PFE?
In addition, PFE has a target of raising £50,000 to ensure it can operate for the first year, and has already received donations from learning disability charities and support providers including Choice Support, Dimensions, Inspired Services and Brandon Trust, as well as several personal donations.
“We are about two thirds of our way to the financial funding we need for year 1 but we have also been delighted by how much support has been offered - things like admin, opportunities to attend training events and networking,” added Frankin.
More information on PFE will be released in the coming weeks here: http://peoplefirstengland.blogspot.co.uk/ or Twitter @People1stEng