Monthly Archives: June 2011

Special Olympics


Last night I was really hoping to watch the coverage of the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in Athens but unfortunately despite hundreds of TV channels no one choose to show it.

The Special Olympics doesn’t just train people for the games which takes place every 2 years, they also provide sports opportunities for people with learning disabilities all over the world and to me it shows what people with learning disabilities can achieve if they are just given the chance.

Dignity, acceptance, and a chance to reach one’s potential – these are human rights worth promoting for everyone. For more than four decades, Special Olympics has been bringing one message to the world: people with intellectual disabilities can and will succeed if given the opportunity.

What saddens me is that many people will never get this opportunity. In order to attend the games the competitors each have to raise the necessary funds, they have to pay for their own training and have to overcome prejudices – all this in 2011. Imagine if the same was said to a competitor at the mainstream Olympics or to footballers competing in the world cup.

Here is an opportunity for these people to be on top, to say to the world “look what I can do” and to say to other’s with similar conditions “look what you can do” and for the learning disabled community to have pride in itself and yet it is totally and utterly ignored.

In the 6 years work I did with people who had learning difficulties I saw many changes. I saw the difference education made, I saw the difference independent living made and I saw the difference the Special Olympics made to the lives of people I was working with. They blow out of the water the attitude that people with learning difficulties can’t be taught and that people with Downs Syndrome in particular have such poor muscle tone that they can’t do sports. Crazy thing is that the sports really really help and make a massive difference to someone’s long term health.

I’m really proud to have met Susan – she really is an inspiration 🙂



People Not Punchlines Campaign


From the age of 7 I knew I was different. I had difficulties with my bladder control, I couldn’t catch a ball, I found reading, maths and writing difficult and I couldn’t identify with other children. I found it difficult to concentrate and to break tasks down and this ended up with me panicking so much I never managed to complete the task set unless someone sat with me to help me. At the age of 22 I was finally diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and dyspraxia.

At school I was always the focus of the name calling, I’ve been called “thick” “spaz” and “retard” and was never chosen for anything. I battled thanks to my mum to get through secondary school and came out with decent GCSEs. The problem is the bullying didn’t end when I left school, there hasn’t been a day since where I’ve felt confident that I could achieve anything and I’ve ended up suffering with depression for most of my adult life as a result.

For a long time I didn’t think I was good at anything, I believed that I was a waste of space and worst of all I didn’t understand why I was different. I didn’t get why people kept saying I was bright but there was something getting in the way of me producing the work to prove it and that made it in many ways harder to deal with. I simply couldn’t believe I’d ever be good at anything.

Last year I had a breakdown and ended up in counselling and with that and support from friends and my husband I realised that whilst I’m never going to play sports in the Olympics or solve complex maths puzzles, there is plenty I’m good at. Thing is I’d become so obsessed with being brilliant at things I couldn’t see that I was actually not that bad at things after all 🙂

This is why I’m really happy to support Nicky Clark’s “People not Punchlines” campaign. Being called a spaz or retard is no joke and neither is the depression caused by these attitudes. I was recently appalled at the fundraising comedy gala for Great Ormond Street Hospital where the blind were mocked and depression reduced to a joke.

Visit the link below for more information


What My Motability Car Means to Me


Since I got my first car on motability I was able to learn to drive. Before that there is no way i’d of been able to afford the automatic car I needed and it’s really difficult to get lessons from automatic instructors as they are few and far between.

Having the twins and not having a car was a nightmare. I used to have to rely on charities and care workers to take my daughter to school and a simple trip into town involved me arguing that my double buggy wasn’t 2 buggies and was therefore allowed on the bus. Going further afield involved taking a single buggy and a sling and having CFS meant I had to recover for several days afterwards.

Now i’ve passed my test and we have a car through the motability scheme I am able to do things which previously I could have only dreamed of. Taking my daughter to school, taking the kids swimming and to the park, going on holiday and most importantly WORKING! Without my car I wouldn’t be able to do any of these things, my health would be severely impaired and I would still be requiring care workers to do everything for me. We’re talking a £500 a month saving.

My worry now is that my health has improved and I’m really scared they will take away my mobility allowance and I’ll be back to square one again – the only reason my health has improved is because I have the car which has had an amazing impact on my physical and mental health and given me and my family our lives back.

It’s not about free BMWs for the relatives of disabled people, it’s about giving people and their families the chance of a normal life, the chance to be independent and the chance to enjoy life. There will always be a small minority who abuse the system but there are thousands in this country who do not.

Comments by Phillip Davies MP


I am truly and utterly appalled at the attitude of this gentleman. For those who haven’t seen his comments


One comment stood out for me and that was the bit about people with learning difficulties being “less productive” than those without. My initial disgust led me to a bit of googling.

“Before being elected MP for Shipley, Philip worked at Asda in Leeds as a Senior Marketing Manager and before that as a Customer Services Project Manager”.


Clearly Mr Davies opinions go against the policies and experiences of his former employers who are keen to employ people who have a range of disabilities. Both Remploy and the Mencap have worked with Asda to promote the employment of people with learning disabilities and a quote from ASDA on the Remploy website states

“David Smith, ASDA’s People Director, said that there were strong commercial reasons for employing disabled people. “Firstly, it is the right thing to do and secondly we find that people with disabilities are 10 per cent less likely to leave us. Retention is better and we also have an improved absenteeism record. Certainly, commitment to the job is absolutely massive.”


What needs to happen then to ensure more people with learning difficulties are able to work? Stop moving the goalposts and ensure that employers are fully aware of the benefits of employing people with disabilities and the support that they can get.

One think I do agree is that when you are faced with someone who has a learning difficulty and someone who doesn’t you are going to choose the person who doesn’t have the disability. In my own experience I worked with people who had moderate learning difficulties who had worked in market gardens for years but as the numbers of foreign students wanting summer jobs increased, they were pushed out and unable to find work.

It’s the same in so many areas of society though, look at young people in areas of central london who will never work and yet they are a few miles from hundreds of hotels, bars and restaurants who i’m afraid will employ large numbers of foreign students. Is Mr Davies implying that young people without disabilities should also take a paycut? Obviously not.

Panorama – My Response


I’ll be honest and say I haven’t seen the whole program. I’ve watched clips on the BBC website and like everyone, I am disgusted and appalled that anyone could treat another human being like that.

The first thing that horrified me was that people were living in a brand new purpose built hospital. I thought that this sort of placement had gone out with the ark but sadly this isn’t the case. As many have said, it’s just swapping one institution for another. I’m not saying that hospital type settings don’t have a place because I know that for short term placements they are crucial. Take my neighbours son, he’s in his mid 20s and has a learning difficulty amongst other problems and he is currently in a hospital setting. He’s learning to care for himself and he’s being prepared for life living away from his parents in his own home. No other setting could really prepare him in such an effect way and this is what hospitals should be – not holding pens. Maybe we need to stop seeing these places as places of treatment and start seeing them as places of learning – even if you are talking about those with really challenging behaviour or severe disabilities, they are able to learn something.

Carers should be registered and undergo regular training, GPs should undergo training about learning disabilities and where there is any question of abuse the CQC should be there straight away and they should have powers to revoke licences where a company large or small has serious operational failings. It’s all very well shutting down the care home that’s got the problem but you can sure as hell grant that if it’s a problem in one home it’ll be a problem in others.

I went to a care agency for an interview a few weeks ago and I was shocked at some of the questions I was asked. It turns out that the job centres send many people their way who are desperate for work but who have no idea what care work is really like. The jobcentre pay for 3 days training and then they are sent out into the community, into people’s homes and into care homes, and are often shocked by what they find and quit a few days later. If you’ve gone into care work to earn money and that’s your only motivation then you will fail.

I’d really like to see how these “care workers” had been recruited and how much input they had from qualified staff. I heard mention of a GP but a GP is not equipped or trained to spot signs of abuse or to understand people who have learning difficulties. Abuse will always happen and there will always be sick people in the world and there isn’t a whole lot we can do about that but we can ensure that when a complaint is made it is acted on immediately. You can CRB check someone, insist on 3 references and a 5 year checkable work history but it’s useless if you are allowed to work without proper supervision and sanction.

I also question how much profit making companies can care about the people they look after. If you are making £31.3m profit for your venture capitalist owners or in the case of Southern Cross, paying rent to property developers, where is that money not going. It’s not going into client care, it’s not going into training, it’s not going into staffing and it’s not going into better wages for care staff. There are many people who would be great carers who chose to do other jobs because when you’re better paid to stack shelves why would you want to be a care worker. I’ve seen jobs offering 12 hour shifts in care homes – no one can work those hours and provide a high level of care.

This afternoon I’m going for an interview at a supportive living home run by a charity. Any profit is ploughed back into services and residents have tenure of their homes. Regular staff care for a small number of service users and creativity is encouraged. Staff training is paid for by the company and whilst wages aren’t incredible they provide a pension scheme, childcare vouchers, employee support line, cycle to work scheme and training opportunities. Having worked in the private sector I used to dream of things like this.

I hope this is a watershed and I hope those people and their families haven’t suffered in vain. They’re in my prayers and I pray that all vulnerable people are kept safe and loved.