Today [14 June 2016] is the launch of Learning Disability England and marks a new era in the fight for equality and respect for people with learning disabilities, autism and their families.
It is five years since Winterbourne View. Despite all the Transforming Care promises, little has changed.
In just the last year we have seen:
- cuts to Employment and Support Allowance
- empty promises around the disability employment gap
- threats to social rents, to local housing allowance and to exempt rents
- the loss of the Independent Living Fund
- threats to the blue badge scheme
- and of course, further cuts to local authority spending.
By merging the work of a number of predecessor organisations – the Housing and Support Alliance and People First England have worked together to form – Learning Disability England (LDE), which will represent a huge proportion of the people with learning disabilities in England, was formed.
For founding members such as Dimensions, the key challenge will be, and has already been, to step back from the debate and ensure there is space for members with learning disabilities to speak.
LDE has already consulted widely on its aims and its immediate priorities.
Many organisations – my own included – already speak on behalf of learning disabled people. We respond to consultations. We advocate change. And of course we consult widely to develop our views.
But LDE is different. Its priorities are generated by people with learning disabilities. Its opinions on those priorities are those of its members. And the way it defines success, the way it chooses to influence…all these will be authentically driven by people with learning disabilities.
So today is an exciting day. If you have a learning disability, it would be a good idea to join. Ultimately, it will only be as strong as its membership.
But don’t take my word for it. Talk to Ann McCallum, who is supported by Dimensions and who I am proud to call my friend. Ann is attending the House of Lords launch today. She’ll be sharing her hopes for Learning Disability England on this blog soon. Look out for it.