The learning disability charity Hft has launched a new campaign, Our Voices Our Future, which calls to improve the lives of people with a learning disability.
The campaign focuses on four key areas: social care, housing and infrastructure, the world of work and social attitudes. According to people with learning disabilities, these four areas propose some of the biggest barriers to leading fulfilled lives.
Over the next five years, Hft will work together with people with learning disabilities, their families and carers to calls for positive change in these policy areas.
The charity wants everyone, including the government, to listen to people with learning disabilities. So, they officially launched the campaign at an event in Parliament, which gave MPs the opportunity to listen to people with lived experience about what needs to change and how this can be achieved.
Living the best life possible
One of the biggest barriers people with learning disabilities face is a lack of social care support. Many struggle to get the right support and the right time due to a lack of social care provision in the community.
Hft are calling for long-term funding for social care that is substantial enough to ensure that social care staff are paid a fair wage, services are sustainable long into the future and providers can support people to do what they want to do (for example, have autonomy over how they spend their money and partake in hobbies they enjoy).
Housing is also a significant issue, and many people with learning disabilities are unable to live in supported housing in the community despite their wishes.
The charity therefore wants to see: improved accessible housing standards, improved funding and regulations, increased availability of supported housing and improved accessibility standards for public infrastructure so facilities and activities can be enjoyed by everyone.
People with learning disabilities often can and want to work, but struggle to find opportunities to earn a fair wage in a job they enjoy.
To change this, Hft is calling for better employment support for people with learning disabilities, better support for employers to dispel misconceptions and encourage inclusive employment practices and a reduction in the disability employment gap.
Negative stereotypes about people with learning disabilities are extremely common, which means people with learning disabilities are sometimes not treated with kindness and respect.
More needs to be done to challenge these stereotypes, and Hft says this can be achieved through creating more inclusive and equal opportunities, encouraging people to partake in disability awareness training, ending disability hate crime and building better support for people with a learning disability to navigate friendships and relationships.
The Walk in our Shoes Network
By focusing on these four policy themes, the charity hopes to significantly improve the lives of people with a learning disability over the next five years. They are calling on everyone to get involved in the campaign and learn more about what it’s like to live with a learning disability.
Kirsty Matthews, Chief Executive of Hft, said: “We want everyone, including people who make the decisions in Whitehall and Westminster, to listen to people with a learning disability and be part of the change that is so necessary.”
The charity is encouraging all learning disabled adults and those who support them to join the Walk in our Shoes Network. Through the network, individuals will be given the opportunity to join calls for change, ensuring the campaign is truly informed by the people who are at the centre of this important work.
One of those who will be joining the network is Erin O’Donnell, who is autistic and has dyspraxia. Erin was an intern on DFN Project Search, a transition to employment programme, and is now working for Hft as a Supported Employment Advocate.
She said: “I have been involved in Voices for our Future through DFN Project Search and Hft. I’m extremely passionate about helping people with learning disabilities and/or autism because I want disabled people to have the same chances as everyone else in life.
“Just because we need a little extra support doesn’t mean that we can’t achieve our dreams and aspirations. In order to make this possible, Hft needs your support to enable us to achieve our mission.”