MP invited to walk in the shoes of people with learning disabilities
People with learning disabilities have been sharing their concerns with their local MP as part of a campaign to encourage political leaders to gain a better understanding of the issues that matter to them.
Yesterday, seven adults supported by learning disabilities charity Hft met with Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West, at the charity’s supported living service in Montpelier.
The visit formed part of the charity’s ongoing Walk in Our Shoes campaign. The initiative is led by the charity’s speak out group, Voices to Be Heard, who feel that their hopes and concerns are not given the same attention by political leaders as those of people without disabilities. The campaign aims to facilitate opportunities for people with learning disabilities to share their experiences with politicians and help shape future policy decisions that affect their lives.
Walk In Our Shoes launched in March with a thunderclap appeal enlisting public support to call on Theresa May to ask her MP’s to spend time finding out more about the issues that matter to people with learning disabilities by visiting their local Hft service.
Thangam Debbonaire is the first Labour MP to visit a service and spend time walking in the shoes of people with learning disabilities. On the day the MP was given a tour of the premises and took part in a 30 minute question and answer session, where people supported by Hft had the chance to talk about the issues affecting their day-to-day lives. Among the concerns raised during the session were government cuts to social care funding, and access to public toilets.
For Jane, it was an opportunity to talk about cuts to concessionary bus passes in Bristol:
“I have heard that the bus passes are going to stop next year and this really worries me as it means I won’t be able to afford to get out of the house very often. I am also worried how it will affect other people with disabilities.”
Thangam Debbonaire said: “I am grateful to everyone at Hft for welcoming me and spending time helping me to understand more about life for people with learning disabilities. We should all work to understand how people with learning disabilities experience the world. Workplaces and public buildings are often set up in way which makes life difficult for some people. There is a lot we can do to make Bristol a friendlier place for those with learning disabilities. I ask everyone in Bristol to help make this a reality.”
People supported by Hft also asked Thangam Debbonaire to raise a question in parliament about the impact that cuts to concessionary bus pas schemes are having on disabled people.
Billy Davis is Hft’s Policy and Public Affairs Manager. He helped to create the campaign which in June saw two members of the speak out group hand delivering a pair of custom-made shoes to Downing Street for the Prime Minister, along with a letter providing information about the campaign.
He hopes more MPs will take the opportunity to walk in the shoes of people with learning disabilities and find out what life is like for them.
“Walk In Our Shoes offers the people supported by Hft a meaningful platform to raise awareness of the issues that matter to them. Ever since the launch of the campaign, the people we support have been eager to speak with politicians from across the parties about the issues that affect them. Today marks the first of many such visits.
“We are pleased that Thangam Debbonaire came to the service to walk in the shoes of the people who live there. We look forward to welcoming other MPs to other Hft services soon.”
For more information on Walk In Our Shoes, visit: https://www.hft.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/walk-in-our-shoes/