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Cheerleading the Learning Disability sector


The UK learning disability sector employs over 1.5 million people, making it one of the biggest employers in social care. In addition, learning disability is the 2nd most invested in part of the social care sector with £6.1 billion investment (38% of all social care investment in 2020-21). This is second only to physical care. (Mencap, 2021)


These statistics would suggest that the public profile of learning disability is relatively high. However, the reality is that it is often dementia or mental health which springs to mind when we think of social care. So, as people with a learning disability, carers, families and professionals what can we do to improve public perception and understanding of learning disability? Well, we could start off by becoming the biggest cheerleaders of the learning disability sector!


Empathy:


Putting yourself in the place of someone with a learning disability is imperative to cheerleading their interests, hopes and aspirations. If professionals are able to plan services from the perspective of those individuals who use them, these services are theoretically more likely to be meaningful, person-centred and effective. Likewise, a general public who understands individuals will push general policy conversations forward


Experience:


We can only cheerlead the sector if we truly acknowledge the diverse experiences of people with a learning disability and accept that historically, these have not always been positive. By doing this, we can hopefully prevent stories from the past being retold, instead celebrating the diversity of experiences shared by people with a learning disability


Engagement:


To cheerlead the learning disability sector, to develop the public relationship with individuals with a learning disability, effective communication is key. Talking to people with a learning disability, their families and friends; listening to their views, experiences and concerns is the only way to secure meaningful involvement, quality services and lasting empowerment


Empowerment:


Truly empowering adults with a learning disability involves flipping the narrative of the past and handing our professional power over to them. Adults with a learning disability need to see themselves and be seen, within their communities, as active agents of decision making. Key to this is working in partnership with professionals and policymakers, making collaborative decisions to further the opportunities available to those individuals with a learning disability and then taking action to ensure this happens


To find out more about how you can cheerlead the learning disability sector, why not take a look at my Cheerleader’s Road from Empathy to Empowerment on the website

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