Adults with learning disabilities want more support to meet new people and play an active role in the community. This was one of the main conclusions of the UK’s biggest ever conference for people with learning disabilities and autism, held in London this weekend (Saturday 6 September).
Hosted by leading learning disability charity Brandon Trust, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, the ‘100 Voices’ conference involved more than 200 people and their support workers and took place at the Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal Football Club.
Brandon Trust’s unique annual event focussed on hearing first-hand the priorities and challenges for people with learning disabilities and autism in today’s society. This year’s special 20th anniversary conference explored how far society has come in relation to people with learning disabilities and autism in the last 20 years, and what the goals and priorities should be for the next two decades.
Having a greater sense of freedom and personal control over their lives was one of the main themes from the day, with many people indicating that this was something they were already experiencing with the help of Brandon Trust. But delegates also clearly stated that they would like more support to meet new people, take part in new activities and hobbies and seek work opportunities.
Stephen Williams (see image), who lives in supported living in Bristol, run by Brandon Trust and also works at one of the charity’s community cafes, said:
“It’s been a great day. It’s good to be listened to. I feel like I have a say in how things work and what I do.”
Brandon Trust chief executive Lucy Hurst-Brown added:
“100 Voices is by far the most important date on our annual calendar and this year’s special 20th anniversary event was the biggest and the best. It was fantastic to get so many of the people we support in one place to hear direct from them what they are proud of, what they want to see more of and what they would like to change or improve.
“Many people taking part expressed a clear desire for freedom and self determination – which are core values for us at Brandon Trust. They also said they want more support to meet new people and build meaningful relationships.
These conclusions are hugely valuable in informing our work moving forward and ultimately to help reach Brandon Trust’s long term goal of making paid support a last resort.”
100 Voices’ specially created programme was designed to help people with learning disabilities express their views in a friendly, supportive and inspiring environment. All input has been recorded and will help inform the charity’s work both in terms of service provision and in influencing government policy and support.