Last week, Ann McCallum was supported by Dimensions to attend the House of Lords launch of new self-advocacy organisation Learning Disability England.
In this interview, Ann reflects on the potential for LDE to create much needed change. Writing supported by Dimensions PR Manager, Duncan Bell.
Hi Ann. Tell me about the launch in the House of Lords… what sticks in your mind?
The weather! We got soaked. And the turnout.
There were so many people there, so many people determined to give people with learning disabilities a louder voice.
Gary Bourlet, a self-advocate, chaired the event which was hosted by Baroness Sheila Hollins and also House of Lords Campaigner Jane Campbell.
Jane gave a wonderful speech. She recognised that she was involved with a disabled people’s movement that doesn’t include people with learning disabilities and she promised to make sure this changed. We also had a minute’s silence for all who had died in ATUs.
Why is Learning Disability England important?
Learning Disability England brings people with learning disabilities together with families and carers. It will help those with learning disabilities to have a louder voice.
As a large group, we are stronger together and must be listened to. People with learning disabilities will be the main spokespeople.
Why is it different from other campaigning organisations?
It is a real, equal partnership between three parties: People who have learning disabilities, families and organisations that share the same goals which are to make a difference.
The 9-person board of Learning Disability England has three members from each group to ensure effective balance.
How did you get involved?
I am supported by Dimensions. I’ve also been elected by my peers to be the co-chair of the Dimensions Council – that means I am responsible for ensuring the organisation listens to and acts on the messages coming from the people it supports up and down the country.
Dimensions was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Learning Disability England, although it wants to stay in the background to ensure LDE is truly led by people with learning disabilities. As the co-chair of council, it was natural for me to get involved.
What do you hope it will achieve?
To make a real change – by giving people with learning disabilities a louder, stronger voice. What we hope it will do is influence policy and public views, so that people with a learning disability are seen as equal people in their community and have a contribution to make. In its first year I want to see a change in attitudes. This is the big issue that LDE will address this year.
What barriers do you expect it will come up against?
Funding will always be an issue, so LDE needs to grow its membership base quickly. We want to make sure people hear of LDE and what it means.
What role should providers such as Dimensions be playing, if any?
Dimensions is a founder member and so it needs to support the priorities that LDE chooses, including ensuring the people it supports can play a lead role in taking things forward. Dimensions Council members are particularly keen to be involved
Dimensions can also help by telling more people with learning disabilities about LDE and encouraging them to join.
What should I do now?
Join, and help us raise our voice! Find out how to join Learning Disability England.
Thank you Ann