Remembering LB

Today, we are remembering the life of Connor Sparrowhawk, a much loved son, brother, friend and young man who died a preventable death in an NHS bath on 4th July, 2013. Three years later, his family and friends are still fighting for justice. #JusticeforLB

For more information and the JusticeforLB campaign. Please visit here:

Get people with learning disabilities out of institutions NOW

There are currently over 3000 people with learning disabilities trapped in Assessment and Treatment units in the UK. Many have been incarcerated for years against the wishes of the people themselves and their families. What does this institutionalisation say about our society? And how might we respond?

Monday 18th April 2016 saw the launch of the 7 Days of Action Campaign. The campaign was launched by the mothers and family members of people with learning disabilities who are currently trapped in Assessment & Treatment Units. These people have committed no crime. They have rarely been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Yet, they remain in Units for years at a time. The campaign website reports that 43% of the people are in Units more than 50km from their homes. 72% are being prescribed anti-psychotic medication as a means of containing them. 30% of people have been in ATUs for more than 5 years. The average cost of being kept in an ATU is £3500 per week.

All people want is to be living back home with their families or to live in their own homes with support. And that is the aim of this campaign. The segregation and separation of people with learning disabilities is a stain on our communities. In times of austerity we need to find ways of coming together to support one another to ensure that people with learning disabilities are not marginalised, excluded and cast off to the edges of our communities.

Many people have been galvanised by the #7Daysofactioncampaign to connect with comrades with and without learning disabilities to challenge the dehumanisation of people so-labelled. This means keeping the pressure on key players including government, to service providers and commissioners of services. It also means working alongside people with learning disabilities and their representative organisations to ensure that their ambitions are recognised and responded to.

Key to such recognition is the health of the self-advocacy movement. Too many self-advocacy groups have folded over the last five years. And as people with learning disabilities tell us: these groups are essential to their lives and aspirations. Now is the time to contest exclusion (just as the #7Daysofactioncampaign has done) and promote disability activism in the lives of people with learning disabilities.

‘Lies, damned lies and statistics’

People with learning disabilities experience far poorer health than their non-disabled peers. Now is the time for us to recognise this disparity and address these health inequalities. Whilst mindful of the warning of the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli who coined the phrase ‘Lies, damned lies and statistics’, what do we actually know about the lives of people with learning disabilities when it comes to the hard facts and numbers?

People so-labelled are more likely to be exposed to common social determinants of poor ill health and low psychological well-being including poverty, poor housing conditions, unemployment or poor employment support, social disconnectedness and overt discrimination.

A brief forage around the internet reveals some some damning data. People with learning disabilities die on average 24 years younger than their non-disabled peers; men die on average 13 years and women 20 years sooner than those without learning disabilities.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and FPLD found that people with learning disabilities:

  • Are 2.5 times more likely to have health problems than other people;
  • Have a much greater propensity to develop physical and mental health problems compared with the general population;
  • Experience higher rates of hospital admission (76 per 1000 adults) compared with non-disabled people (15 in 1000);
  • Are more likely to find it more difficult than others to describe their symptoms leaving some problems undetected;
  • Have reduced access to generic preventative screening and health promotion procedures, such as breast or cervical screening;
  • Only 44.2% of those eligible received an annual health check;
  • Are let down by a lack of collaboration between GPs, primary health care teams and specialist services;
  • Are prescribed anti-psychotic medication in absence of psychiatric illness (13% of all people so-labelled);
  • Are subjected to systematic abuse, dangerous restraint methods and needless suffering in the care of the NHS.

We need to act now to challenge these injustices and promote enabling forms of support such as self-advocacy, supported employment, and community living.

In a time of Brexit

In a dramatic week for Britain, an important report about the rights of marginalized groups, including disabled people, has gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream media, Katherine Runswick-Cole explains what the report is and why it is important for disabled people.

It has been a tumultuous week in British politics in which Brexit has dominated the headlines. And so the publication of a report by The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights barely got any airtime, despite the fact that the authors of the report expressed “serious concern” about the impact of regressive policies on the enjoyment of economic and social rights

This was a damning report that should have hit the headlines. The committee found that since 2010 the austerity measures have had a disproportionate adverse impact on the most marginalized and disadvantaged citizens including women, children, low-income families, those with two or more children and disabled people.

The committee recommends that the UK reverse the cuts in social security benefits and use of sanctions.

In uncertain times, a breach economic and social rights of those most marginalized in society has been hidden, we need to pull this report out of the long shadow cast by Brexit.

Please help us by sharing the report: