On Friday 26th April, “A Few of the Many” took place at St John the Divine, High Path.
Facilitated by Sue Hubbert (Disabilities Officer, Wimbledon Labour Party) with The Baked Bean Company to give adults with learning disabilities an opportunity to talk about their lives. The event featured an inspiring play, a speech from Marsha de Cordova (Shadow Minister for Disabled People) and a discussion chaired by David Hamilton and Jackie Schneider (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Wimbledon Labour Party). Of the 110-strong audience, half were people with learning disabilities who wanted to be heard. There were also carers, heath and social work professionals, councillors, Labour Party members and a representative of Disability Labour.
Nothing about us without us
The performance had been devised by the actors, and was rousing, funny, touching and sad. Its message was clear: people with learning disabilities were people first, and deserve to be treated like people, and must not be ignored or patronised. The performance illustrated how they were suffering under austerity in various ways with over stretched social workers, and cuts to services. Applause was hearty and well deserved.
Given the right opportunity, you can do anything
Before the discussion was opened to the floor, Marsha de Cordova spoke. She expressed her determination for disabled people to be included. It was somewhat shocking to hear that she was one of only five MPs with a disability, and so there is a great deal of work to be done to become truly inclusive. Marsha talked about the impact of austerity, the unfairness of Universal Credit, the difficulties with PIP and the outrageous outcome of 5000 deaths following Work Capacity Tests. She gave hope that the next Labour Government would reverse the cuts to services, stop work capacity testing and would invest properly in social security; she further stated that there would be a job for all who wanted to work.
Independence can mean increased loneliness
The roving mike in Sue Hubbert’s capable hands ensured that people with learning disabilities were given the floor to speak. Many spoke about their achievements as well as their difficulties, and some spoke with support from parents.
There were thoughts about employment, and how support needs to be available to make it possible for people with learning disabilities to participate fully. Marsha talked about the ‘Access to work scheme’ as the best kept secret, and she pledged to fund and run schemes properly when in government, so that employers could be held to account with taking on disabled people, and that support was tailored to individual needs.
One of the most important points made both by one mum, and Marsha, was about normalising disability, as any of us could at any time in our lives become disabled: to get it right for the disabled is to get it right for everybody.