People with learning disabilities – care, crime and a community education campaign

Six care workers were jailed last week and five more were given suspended sentences because they neglected and abused vulnerable patients in their ‘care’. A BBC Panorama investigation had exposed cruelty at the Winterbourne View private hospital near Bristol, which the Castlebeck group ran. A serious case review and a damning 150-page report followed, cataloguing dozens of assaults on patients. Abuse like this is not isolated and too many people with learning disabilities live with fear and humiliation.

Recent events show that we need advocates for the most defenceless people in our society. We should also support people in speaking out for themselves when it’s possible so that they’re able to share their experiences and have some influence over their own lives. Stephen Green’s election as England’s first parish councillor with Downs Syndrome is a significant step. Stephen from Nutthall, Nottinghamshire, is challenging the stereotypes of local politicians being explored in the Department of Community and Local Government’s ‘YBaCouncillor’ inquiry.

Other people with learning disabilities are speaking out about the discrimination that they face in their everyday life.

Twelve WEA students with learning disabilities have made a powerful and poignant short film about hate and ‘mate’ crime to raise awareness and to change attitudes towards disability hate crime. The TES FE Awards have recognised the Open Door – Tackling Disabilities Hate Crime project, shortlisting it for the ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community’ award.

There’s more information about the project and a link to the film at http://www.wea.org.uk/news/opendoor.aspx. The film’s first hand accounts of hate and ‘mate’ crime are very moving. The Open Door group presented their film at the WEA Yorkshire and Humber Region’s Annual General Meeting last year and as part of Ruth Spellman’s induction to her role as the WEA’s General Secretary, giving updates on what’s happened since they’d made the film.

Winning a TES Award would be a wonderful achievement for the students but changing other people’s attitudes and behaviour is the real prize that they’re after. Wanting to live without pestering and persecution shouldn’t be too much to ask.

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About Ann Walker
Adult education and lifelong learning specialist and campaigner. LinkedIn: http://linkd.in/1GI0QK1

2 Responses to People with learning disabilities – care, crime and a community education campaign

  1. gogwit says:

    Reblogged this on Gogwit's Blog and commented:
    For human beings to wish to be treated and respected as such ought not to be such an ask. Indeed it ought not need to be asked at all.

  2. Rosemary Mayes says:

    My experience as a trustee for a charity promoting advocacy services for looked after children, many of whom have learning disabilities, has demonstrated to me the huge need for these services and for the underlying long-term objective to bring about the social change which would make such services redundant. It was heartening to read the example of self-help in a supportive environment in this blog.

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